Aspen scores big, lands a spot in soccer’s final four
It’s on to the final four for the Aspen High School boys soccer team.
The Skiers booted Alexander Dawson 3-0 Wednesday afternoon in front of a huge home crowd to make it to the semifinals of the state playoffs for the third consecutive season.
For Aspen, the victory provided a sweet taste of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. Alexander Dawson, a private school from the Front Range, upended the Skiers 5-0 in a semifinal showdown last year.
Owing to the unusual 2 p.m. starting time of Wednesday’s game, Aspen schools shut down early so everyone could be at the game. The ploy worked, as far and away the largest crowd of the year was on hand for the dramatic contest.
The first half featured end-to-end action, as the two teams struggled to find the right rhythm at both ends of the field.
“There were some nerves in the first half,” said Aspen coach Jon Gillies.
A pair of defensive miscues on the part of Aspen led to nice scoring opportunities for the Mustangs. But a corner kick eight minutes into the game was headed aside and then, 10 minutes later, Aspen goalie Tony Prikryl made a nice one-handed save at the edge of the 18-yard box. A Dawson player picked up the rebound, but his shot sailed high.
A number of other chances for both sides were defused, and the first half ended in a scoreless tie.
During the second half, Aspen coaches Gillies and Grant “Junior” Sutherland changed their offensive strategy and pulled forward Brendan Wynn, the Skiers’ leading scorer, out to midfield to draw out the defense and create more space behind them.
With the new game plan, Aspen had a number of good chances to break the ice early in the second half. Corey Robinson fired a shot from the 18-yard mark that sailed just high three minutes into the half. He wound up with another scoring try five minutes later off an indirect kick by Michael Friedland, but his tough-angle shot was kicked away.
Dawson had perhaps its best chance of the game with 28 minutes remaining, when Prikryl came way out of the Aspen net to make a play and then lost the ball. The Mustangs tried to capitalize, but Aspen’s Michael Stege was there to head the ball out of danger.
The Skiers finally broke the deadlock with 12 minutes left in the game when they worked the ball up the left and off the head of a Dawson defender. Carter Hansen took the loose ball and blasted a high shot from about 20 yards out. The Mustangs’ goalie, Nick Maxwell, got a hand on the ball, but it was not enough as the ball bounced over him and into the back of the net for a 1-0 Aspen lead.
With the scoring drought ended, Aspen redoubled its offensive pressure and scored again with 7:30 to play when a Friedland throw-in got over Mustang defender and onto the foot of Wynn, who chipped the ball over Maxwell for his first goal of the game.
Wynn made the score 3-0 just a minute later when he took a great pass from Chris Erickson and beat Maxwell with a low shot to the left side.
Dawson would never seriously threaten again, and when the buzzer sounded, Aspen was moving on to the final four with a shutout win.
“We wore them down,” said Gillies. “It was inevitable that we were going to break through. As soon as we scored that first one, the Dawson defense moved up and gave Brendan some room. After that it was basically over.”
Gillies, Sutherland and the whole team have much of the credit for the win to Kris Hatrup, an assistant with the coaching staff.
“Kris has been great,” said Sutherland. “Without her the season would not have been possible.”
Next up for the Skiers will be a state semifinal match-up against the winner of the game between Faith Christian and Colorado Springs Christian. That game begins at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Englewood High School, in the Denver area.
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