Skiers dismember the Titans | AspenTimes.com

Skiers dismember the Titans

Jon Maletz

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

For the first 55 minutes in his team’s 3A state soccer quarterfinal Saturday against the Classical Academy, Aspen head coach Junior Sutherland paced the sidelines, hands folded behind his back.After his team scored three goals in the next 12 minutes, however, an ecstatic Sutherland was riding piggyback on sophomore Baker Boyd, both hands raised toward the sky. The No. 5 Skiers scored four times in the second half and cruised to the 4-0 victory over the No. 13 Titans.Next up for Aspen is a game on Thursday night against No. 9 Denver Christian at Englewood High School outside Denver. Denver Christian upset the tournament’s top seed, Peak to Peak, earlier Saturday.”We came out to play in the first half, but the guys were frustrated because we didn’t score,” Sutherland said. “We took control in the second half. It’s the best I’ve ever seen them [play].”

Aspen broke a scoreless tie in the 55th minute. Senior Nicky Anastas lined a perfect pass down the right sideline to Jesus Meza, who dribbled toward the goal and fired a shot on Titans keeper Bryce Vargas. Vargas got one hand on the ball and deflected it to Skiers senior Ryder Fyrwald. Fyrwald’s ensuing shot again ricocheted off Vargas and to Boyd, who found the back of the net. Anastas was in the middle of the action less than two minutes later. He controlled the ball near midfield, then threaded the defense with a perfect pass to junior forward Tyler Moore. Moore took on a defender, then fired a difficult shot. The ball hit Vargas’ gloves and bounced into the net.”Nicky was everywhere tonight,” Sutherland said.The barrage was far from over. Senior forward Stephen Buzbee, the team and 3A Western Slope scoring leader this season, connected twice during a four-minute span to seal the win. Aspen passed the ball back to keeper Andy Conarroe on multiple occasions to spread out Classical Academy’s players and generate seams in the defense. The tactic yielded a goal in the 67th minute. Conarroe lofted a ball over most of the Titans players as Buzbee got loose behind the defense. He corralled the ball as he streaked toward the goal, paused briefly, then went high for the goal.

Buzbee, shadowed all game, as has been the norm, created his own goal in 70th minute. Sophomore Murphy Fyrwald passed the ball to Buzbee near the top of the box. Buzbee, with a defender on his back, dribbled to his left, and fired a sliding kick to the right corner of the goal. The ball deflected off the gloves of a diving Vargas and into the net.”There he goes again,” Sutherland said with a smile.”I’m getting used to [the defensive pressure], and have more experience finding ways to score,” Buzbee said. “We all moved the ball so well in the second and opened up a lot of space. Once we got that first goal, we got some confidence and settled down.”After a scoreless first half, Sutherland, sensing that his team was pressing, tried to calm his team’s nerves.

“I told them to stop panicking and that this game was theirs,” he said. “If they played their game, it was going to come. I told them to keep believing.”It worked, and now the Skiers are heading to the state semifinals – the furthest into the postseason any player on the roster has advanced. Aspen will be shorthanded Thursday with the loss of senior forward Eric Sciarrone. Sciarrone received a red card for a hard tackle in the game’s waning minutes.”It gives us some motivation. We don’t want this to be his last game,” Buzbee said. “This is as far as any of us have ever been. We’ve never experienced anything like this, but we’re confident.”

The similarities between his current squad and the Skiers team Sutherland guided to the state championship game in 2000 are becoming apparent, he said.”This team is stacked with individual talent, and they’re starting to get the passion the team in 2000 had,” Sutherland said. “Our third goal was to reach the final four. Now, anything can happen.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com