Longhorns clinch perfect Slope record | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns clinch perfect Slope record

Jon Maletz

Aspen High goalkeeper Andy Conarroe, right, makes a save after colliding with Basalt's Felipe Sanchez, left, as Aspen's Henry Cote follows the play during first-half action at Aspen High Tuesday. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

When the final whistle blew in Tuesday’s soccer season finale between Aspen and Basalt, the Longhorns had clinched their first undefeated conference record since 2001.Except for forward Alex Giglio emphatically raising both arms into the air, however, the celebration was subdued. Perhaps it was because Basalt has larger goals to tackle when postseason play begins next week. Perhaps the majority of players – battered and bruised – thought there was another penalty call.In a rivalry game known for its fierce competitiveness and physicality, Tuesday was no exception. Behind three first-half goals and an impressive defensive performance, Basalt (13-2, 10-0) pulled out the 4-1 victory.”We have a long history with Aspen, and every game turns out being a classic,” Basalt senior forward Felipe Sanchez said. “There was a lot of emotion out there.”

Players were using their bodies, challenging for loose balls and contesting every scoring chance. The contact was so rough that, at times, players complained of sore shins. Giglio -sandwiched between an Aspen defender and goalie Andy Conarroe – put the Longhorns on the board 15 minutes into the game when the two Skiers failed to communicate on the loose ball. Giglio, eyeing an open lane, fired a shot into the back of the net.Kyle Wood stretched the Basalt lead to two when he scored on a penalty shot. Wood was pushed in the back inside the box on a scoring chance. It was the first of three penalty shots on the day to go along with two yellow cards and one red.With 10 minutes to play in the first, Baker Boyd scored the Skiers’ only goal of the game, sliding his penalty kick past Basalt’s Jamie Wirkler. The goal was the first ball Wirkler has fished out of the net since Sept. 17, against Colorado Rocky Mountain School – a string of seven games.At 23 minutes into the second, Cody Baker tackled Sanchez from behind on a breakaway. Sanchez kicked his penalty shot attempt into the top right corner of the goal, giving the Longhorns the 4-1 lead.

Baker earned a red card for his tackle and must sit out Aspen’s playoff game when the Skiers (10-5, 7-3) host Colorado Academy at 4 p.m. Thursday. Baker’s ejection forced Aspen to play a man down for the remainder of the second half. “It is what it is,” Aspen coach Grant Sutherland said of Baker’s ejection. “You don’t want something like that to happen in the last game of the season, but there was no question the call was right. It’ll be fine, and we’ll bounce back. “It could’ve easily been 3-3 at the half, and I told my guys to go out and be more physical in the second,” Sutherland added. “We created chances and gave them the most pressure they’ve had.” Basalt senior David Rosales could’ve easily drawn a red card after his reaction to a hard tackle by Skiers sweeper Henry Cote. Rosales retaliated, picking himself up off the ground and shoving Cote. The two players received yellow cards and sat out the rest of the game. “The referees tried to keep the game under control and keep it so players could compete in the states,” Basalt coach Erik Streff said. “He was getting knocked down all day and the frustration just added up. It was a pretty physical game, and I think a fun one, too.”

Had Giglio not stepped in to break up the altercation, Streff said Rosales might have been given a red card. Giglio was in the right place again – this time for a scoring chance – as the first half wound down. Sanchez faked out two Skiers defenders and centered the ball to a waiting Giglio, who slammed it through, giving the Longhorns a 3-1 halftime advantage.The Longhorns will find out Sunday who they will face in their playoff opener.”I think we need it in a way,” Sanchez said of the layoff between games. “We need it to get mentally prepared and physically ready for the playoffs.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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