Basalt, Aspen prepare for second bout | AspenTimes.com

Basalt, Aspen prepare for second bout

Jon Maletz

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

As his team prepares for a second go-round Tuesday with Aspen, Basalt head soccer coach John McDermott is hoping a few choice words borrowed from Winston Churchill will provide a poignant and inspiring pre-game speech.Skiers head coach Junior Sutherland is hoping his players are quick healers. While Aspen battled for nearly 90 minutes Saturday in 3-2, double overtime loss at Vail Mountain School, four key players suffered injuries. Sophomore Baker Boyd, senior goalkeeper Andy Conarroe as well as seniors Bo Gallagher and Matt Cooper were forced out of Saturday’s game with the Gore Rangers. Their status for Tuesday’s game against their downvalley rival, which could decide the 3A Western Slope title, was unknown Sunday night.”A loss like that happens, but the bigger concern for me was having four guys sitting on the bench who were starters,” Sutherland said. “If everyone is fit, we’ll be up for it. One way or another, we’ll give it our best shot.”Boyd, who has been battling a nagging foot injury, was taken out in the first half. So, too, was Gallagher, who also had issue with his foot after being stepped on by a teammate during a previous game. Conarroe left the game after he collided with a Vail Mountain forward and hurt his shoulder. He spent the second half on the bench, wearing a sling. Sutherland said Conarroe’s chances of playing Tuesday were 10 percent.Cooper, who injured his calf last week, overextended and pulled the muscle in the second half Saturday during a struggle for a loose ball. All four will be re-evaluated today.Despite the setbacks, Sutherland was encouraged by his team’s play in the second half – a 40-minute stretch he said was his team’s best all year. The Skiers struggled to get its offense going as they adjusted to Vail Mountain’s Astroturf – Sutherland said the surface was “like carpet with ice on it” – and trailed by two at halftime. They cut the deficit in half five minutes into the second half.

Junior Tyler Moore broke away from a defender and was taken down inside the box. Senior Nicky Anastas found the net on the ensuing penalty kick. Senior Stephen Buzbee tied the score 15 minutes later when he battled through a host of defenders, won the loose ball and scored.”It was a typical Buzbee goal. He was fighting and scrambling and put the pressure on the defense,” Sutherland said. “He found a way.”We came out in the second half and dominated the game. We just couldn’t get that third goal.”The Skiers controlled midfield, but squandered multiple scoring chances when passes to the forwards were overhit, Sutherland said. And, in double overtime, Vail Mountain See SOCCER on page A16benefited from a referee’s ruling.Aspen senior Cooks Braun, who was sent to the back line to fill in on defense, collided with a larger Vail Mountain forward as the two fought for a lose ball in the box. During the scuffle, Braun’s hand was pushed into the ball, and he was whistled for a penalty. Vail Mountain converted the penalty kick and held on to win.

“It was a dubious call, but what are you going to do?” Sutherland said. “It was a tough one.”Basalt, meanwhile, was afforded the chance to rest its key players for much of the second half during an 8-1 win in Paonia. The margin of victory would have been even larger had two Longhorns goals not been disallowed. “We went out and outplayed them,” McDermott said. “We’ve never really played badly this season, we’ve just had some bad luck. These guys have to get their heads above water.”Moments after his team’s 3-1 loss to Aspen on Sept. 23, Basalt senior Ryan Zubizarreta said, “This one cuts deep. I don’t think this will leave my mind for next few weeks.” The defeat was the Longhorns first against the Skiers in more than five years, and the first-ever home loss for Zubizarreta and the other seniors.Tuesday’s game, much hyped because of its post-season implications, was heightened in importance, Zubizarreta said, the moment he found out about Aspen’s struggles against VMS.”I called [Aspen senior] Eric Sciarrone [Sunday], and he told me what happened. I was pretty surprised,” Zubizarreta said Sunday. “That made this game even bigger. This is pretty much for the league title.”McDermott insists his main goal is to keep his team focused and not concern himself with Aspen’s current plight. His players will have a light practice today, then watch a few defensive videos.

McDermott will then deliver, “the most inspirational talk since Churchill talked about the Battle of Britain.” “‘We’ll fight on the beaches. We’ll fight in the towns.’ that kind of talk,” McDermott joked. “That’s inspiration, isn’t it?”I know my guys will be ready.”It’s a sentiment that Sutherland echoed, no matter which Aspen players take the field Tuesday.”This is a huge game for both teams, and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “With characters like Anastas and Buzbee, anything is possible.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com