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Lady Longhorns: a soccer sensation

Steve Benson
***, ***, and *** of the Basalt girls varsity soccer team Saturday afternoon April 24, 2004. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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Ten laps around the track – that’s what awaits the Basalt High girls soccer team for each goal scored against them in games.

The tactic seems to be working.

The Lady Longhorns haven’t allowed a goal in six straight games, outscoring the opposition 30-0.

But as tough as Basalt head coach Chris Woods is on his girls, he’s certainly not a drill sergeant. As Woods said, there has to be a balance.

“If no one’s having fun, you can’t have a great team,” he said. “If you’re all good friends and having fun, no team will come close.”

And no team has come close, except for Faith Christian, who knocked off the Longhorns 4-3 in March, when half the team was away on spring break. Woods just shrugs his shoulders over that loss.

On Saturday, Basalt downed Montrose 1-0 – only their second victory over Montrose in Basalt girls soccer history – to improve their record to 10-1. They’re undefeated (8-0) in conference play.

No doubt good team chemistry and having fun is a recipe for success. But it’s easier said than done.

Just exactly how Basalt became a such a powerhouse on the Western Slope is hard to say.

Maybe it’s Woods’ laid-back but commanding demeanor. Or maybe it’s that there isn’t a standout player, but rather a team of stars.

“Our whole team’s so strong,” senior Ashley Eaton said. “Anyone on our team can score, our defenders score.”

Woods said his biggest challenge is trying to figure out who should play when the entire team has starter quality.

“It’s a nice dilemma to have,” he said.

Still, it might be that the junior varsity head coach, Heather Walker, used to coach varsity, and there’s a depth of talent deeper than the Grand Canyon streaming into the varsity level every year.

“Our entire JV squad has so much skill,” Walker said. “We have girls that would be starting on varsity at any other school.”

Perhaps it’s a combination of all the above – and the fact that most of the girls have been playing soccer together since the third grade.

But Eaton may have put it best when she said, “Everyone cares and has passion, the whole team has heart.”

The girls know this, and they believe in themselves, in one another and in Woods. And they believe they can contend with the powerhouses from the Front Range that they will surely face in the playoffs.

“We definitely want to make a name for ourselves and the Western Slope,” Woods said. “We want to make the long bus ride home [from the playoffs] with a trophy on our bus.

“We’re not arrogant, we’re just confident.”

That was evident following the Montrose victory. There was no jubilant celebration as the girls mingled around the bench, and no dramatic victory speech from Woods. Instead it was just business as usual – another win.

Like Woods said: confident, but not overconfident.

Actually they’re kind of goofy.

They have nicknames like Stinky, Horse, Elmo and Shrek, and disputes between team members looking to steal the spotlight are nonexistent.

One of the most impressive goal scorers on the team is a freshman, Katie Staerkel, who scored the winning goal against Montrose.

When some of the seniors were asked how they feel about the freshman phenom, they didn’t hold back.

“We hate her,” joked Brittany Pollock.

“Yeah, it sucks actually,” laughed Eaton.

Staerkel said she was just happy to have the opportunity to contribute.

“It feels good to come through and play with the team,” she said.

The Longhorns travel to Eagle Valley Tuesday and host Roaring Fork for their regular season finale Saturday.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com

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