Aspen High boys soccer hopes to end two-year playoff drought this fall | AspenTimes.com

Aspen High boys soccer hopes to end two-year playoff drought this fall

Despite finishing the regular season ranked No. 31 in RPI last fall, the Aspen High School boys soccer team was left out of the 32-team playoff bracket in Class 3A. Some of this had to do with automatic qualifiers not dependent on that RPI ranking, but more of it had to do with the Skiers falling short at times they shouldn't have.

"Last year we lost a couple of games to a couple of teams that maybe we shouldn't have lost to, and that's what really cost us getting into the playoffs," AHS coach Dave Francis said prior to Friday's practice. "Not so much the weird configuration, but us not being able to beat the teams we should have beaten."

Francis, in his sixth season as head coach, hopes to get the Skiers back to the postseason for the first time since 2015, when they were the No. 32 seed and lost 2-0 to No. 1 seed and eventual state champion Kent Denver in the first round.

The first step toward that happening came Saturday when Aspen won 6-0 at Grand Valley to open the 2018 season. Senior Edgar Ortiz led the way with three goals, while three others had one.

The Skiers were hardly a bad team in 2017, going 7-5-3 overall and 4-1-3 in a competitive Western Slope League. AHS finished fourth in the WSL last fall, behind champion Coal Ridge, runner-up Delta and third-placed Roaring Fork. Season highlights included a 1-0 win over the Rams and a scoreless draw with Delta. Aspen lost 4-0 in its only meeting against Coal Ridge.

"Consistency for us is the biggest hurdle. We certainly have the players and we have the playing style," Francis said. "On any day they know they can go toe-to-toe, it's just being able to stay that consistent through the season."

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Aspen did lose a handful of key contributors from last year's senior class, such as Liam Rigney, Tyler Clayton, Alex Gordon, Nick Tran and goalie Jake Bassi. AHS does return an equally capable senior class in 2018, led by the likes of Ortiz, Sam Kahn, Nico Barlozzini, Henry Morrison and others. Replacing Bassi in net is one of the bigger hurdles early on this fall.

The Skiers, now 1-0, will have a long wait for that second game. They don't compete next week, the first week of school, before all sports are off the following week because of experiential education. Aspen's next scheduled game is Sept. 6 at Basalt, which starts its season later this week at Roaring Fork.

"The boys are looking good and I'm excited to see how it's going to go. I think we are going to have a pretty good season," Barlozzini said on Friday. "I really want to go pretty far this time. As we get further into the season and players get coached up some more, I definitely think we have a lot of potential."

Note: The AHS soccer team has retired No. 21 and will wear the number on the back of their new uniforms this season to honor Lucas Marchesi, who would have been a senior on this year's team. Marchesi died last spring. Francis said he was "an amazing kid who will be greatly missed."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

AHS soccer schedule

Aug. 18 at Grand Valley (6-0 W)

Sept. 6 at Basalt

Sept. 8 vs. Monarch

Sept. 13 at Delta

Sept. 15 vs. Roaring Fork

Sept. 21 at Ridgeway

Sept. 25 at Moffat

Sept. 28 vs. Basalt

Oct. 2 at Coal Ridge

Oct. 5 at Roaring Fork

Oct. 11 at Grand Junction

Oct. 13 vs. Grand Valley

Oct. 16 vs. CRMS

Oct. 18 vs. Vail Mountain

Oct. 20 vs. Fruita Monument

*schedule is tentative