Aspen aims for upset of No. 4 Titans | AspenTimes.com

Aspen aims for upset of No. 4 Titans

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

COLORADO SPRINGS – Sure, the Aspen soccer team has won just once since Sept. 25, and has scored just 10 goals in its last 10 games. And sure, the Skiers head into Wednesday’s 3A playoff opener at less than full strength.

Still, head coach Junior Sutherland thinks his 29th-seeded squad, which travels to Colorado Springs to take on No. 4 The Classical Academy at 4 p.m., is dangerous.

“We have nothing to lose,” the relaxed coach said during Tuesday afternoon’s practice. “They’re expecting to beat the 29th seed. There’s no pressure on us.

“On any given day, with the right mentality and a little bit of luck, anything can happen.”

Luck has been sparse for Aspen this fall. While they have dominated games for extended stretches, The Skiers struggled to generate offense – save for a

season-opening, 8-0 rout of Grand Valley, they have not scored more than two goals in a game.

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Aspen, which is returning to the postseason for the first time since 2008, has 23 goals this season; The Classical Academy’s top offensive threat, Evan Young, has 25.

Six of Aspen’s games have ended in draws – a source of great consternation on the Skiers’ sideline.

It also has become a running joke.

“We’re taking penalty kicks right now, just in case we tie again. I’m serious,” Sutherland chuckled.

“If I was playing against us, I’d look at our 4-5-6 record and say, ‘They don’t win many games, but they also don’t lose many games.’ We’ll see what happens.”

In 2008, then-17th-seeded Aspen blanked No. 16 Ridgway, 2-0, in the opening round. The Skiers lost to top-seeded Colorado Springs Christian, 4-0, in the second round.

The postseason draw is much less favorable this time around – for Aspen and all of Region 3’s representatives.

“I just think it was a bad draw for everybody [in Region 3]. … Basalt is a Top 8 team. Are they 18 places better than us? Definitely not. … It is what it is,” he added. “I just hope all the Western Slope teams win their first-round games.”

Should Aspen pull off an upset against the 9-5-1 Titans Wednesday, a matchup with 13th-seeded James Irwin likely looms in Saturday’s Round of 16.

And should both sides continue to win, the Skiers and 12th-seeded Coal Ridge could square off in Nov. 4’s quarterfinals.

“I don’t know if that’ll happen, but you have to be optimistic,” Sutherland said.

Whether Aspen advances will depend largely on its offense, and its health; injured standouts Will Bloemsma and Colter Birk are expected to play today, but for how long is yet to be determined.

“It’s a long way to go down there, but we’re not going just for the bus ride,” Sutherland said. “We’ll go give it our best and see where we’re at.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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