Aspen soccer lands state tourney opener at home |

Aspen soccer lands state tourney opener at home

Tim Mutrie

The Aspen High School boys varsity soccer team – the Class 3A Western Slope League champs – will host their first state tournament game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against the Evangelical Christian Academy of Colorado Springs.

Yesterday, the 16-team Class 3A state tournament bracket was finalized in Denver.

Aspen (11-4 overall, 9-1 in league) was awarded the seventh seed and is paired against No. 10 seed Evangelical Christian (5-6-1) in Saturday’s quarterfinal match in Aspen.

“We’re very happy with our draw. We think it’s a good seed for us,” said Grant “Junior” Sutherland, who coaches the team along with Jon Gillies.

Gillies attended yesterday’s seeding meeting in Denver, Sutherland said, “and did a wonderful job landing us a good draw.”

In the state tournament, the higher-seeded team gets to host each match, so in all likelihood, Aspen will only play its first tourney game at home.

Sutherland said the Aspen team feels confident going up against Evangelical Christian, a team that finished third in its league.

“But at this stage, you can’t take anybody lightly,” he said. “The [Aspen players] believe in themselves right now and they believe they’re capable of going all the way. I think the most difficult game will be the first one because you tend to look further down the road.”

This year’s berth to states makes four in a row for the Aspen team, and Sutherland hopes his players’ past playoff experience will payoff.

“We hope kids like [senior co-captains] Carter Hansen and Duncan Delano and Jeff Brence can pull the others through because they’ve been there,” he said. “Hopefully they can keep the guys calm and not ahead of themselves.”

Sutherland said the Skiers planned to practice yesterday, followed by a light workout today in preparation for Saturday’s quarterfinals.

“It’s a win-lose situation,” Sutherland said of the single-elimination-style tourney. “The kids have to be up for it, but if they come ready to play, anything’s possible.”

In Aspen’s last four games, the team has “come alive,” in Sutherland’s words, recording 26 goals and only allowing four against, which the coach attributes to finally having all his players healthy and available to play.

“Knowing how we’ve played the last four games, I think we have a good shot,” he continued. “We’re there; we’re going to try to keep going the way we’re going.”

“It’s time for me to grow on my own,” said Liza.

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