Gore Rangers blank Skiers | AspenTimes.com

Gore Rangers blank Skiers

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

Skiers forward Jesus Mesa duels with a Vail Mountain School defender Saturday at Aspen High School. The Gore Rangers defeated the Skiers, 3-0. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN Two lapses. Two goals.Vail Mountain School striker Tony Ryerson evaded the Aspen defense and scored twice in the final 11 minutes of the first half Saturday in Aspen. The Gore Rangers tacked on one more in the second and prevailed, 3-0, in a battle of the 3A Western Slope’s top teams. With the victory VMS, which downed Basalt, 1-0, Tuesday, improved to 8-0 in conference play.”This was important for us on a number of fronts,” VMS coach Bob Bandoni said. “We know coming to Basalt and Aspen that we’ll always play formidable, well-coached good soccer teams. We’ll always be pushed to our highest level.”Aspen pushed us around a little bit. They opened up chances right away and put a lot of pressure on us.”Aspen’s Murphy Fyrwald uncorked a shot in the 11th minute that narrowly sailed over the crossbar. Six minutes later, Logan Tierney shook free for a point-blank look, but his attempt deflected off his shin guard and out of play.Where the Skiers faltered, Ryerson converted for the Gore Rangers. The junior – who stood out for much more than his lime-green cleats – faded into the box in the 29th minute, dodged an onrushing defender, then beat diving Aspen goalkeeper Alex Owen with a shot to the right. With less than two minutes to play in the first, Jackson Higgins dribbled down the right side, then lofted a perfect cross into the box. Ryerson was well positioned for the finish.”I just stuck out my foot, and it went in,” Ryerson said. “That really got us rolling.””Two strikers finding each other on the field – from a technical aspect, that’s as good as it gets,” Bandoni added.The Gore Rangers were elated. Aspen (5-4-1 overall, 4-2-1 conference), which had rebounded from Sept. 22’s loss to rival Basalt with two impressive victories, was visibly dejected. “[Those two goals] took the wind out of us,” Aspen coach Dave Francis said. “We needed to show some character and determination. I don’t feel like we showed that until the game was already lost.”The Skiers pushed all but three players to the front to generate multiple scoring chances in the second half. The Vail defense thwarted every run thrown at it. Aspen forward Dane Kornasiewicz broke loose behind the VMS defense in the 59th minute, but he hesitated slightly before firing a shot, allowing goalkeeper Sean Minett to smother the ball and the threat.Two minutes later, Higgins all but sealed the victory when he found some open space in the box, paused to gather himself and finished the ball into the bottom left corner. “We just came off the Basalt game, and we still had some momentum,” Ryerson said. “We went out hard, played the ball out wide some, and slowed up the attack to get more chances. It’s definitely one of the best games we’ve played, and I’m excited to see what’s to come.”The Gore Rangers finished third behind Aspen and Basalt in last year’s final conference standings, narrowly missing a state tournament berth. They control their destiny this time around. The reigning conference champion Skiers need some help if they are to return to state. The league picture will likely be sorted out in the next week; Aspen visits Basalt on Tuesday, and the Longhorns travel to Vail on Saturday.”Before today, our destiny was in our hands – win the rest of our games and win the league,” Francis said. “We have to beat Basalt, then rely on results going our way.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com