Skiers fall short in semis | AspenTimes.com

Skiers fall short in semis

Nate Peterson

ENGLEWOOD – The team that took it one game at a time all season just came up one short.No. 5 Aspen (15-3) won’t play for a 3A state championship after falling to ninth-seeded Denver Christian, 2-1, in the semifinals Thursday night at chilly Pirate Stadium in Englewood. But the Skiers sure got close.After surrendering two quick goals in the first 11 minutes of play, Aspen settled down, got a goal of its own with 17 minutes to go in the first half, then played the Crusaders close for the remainder of the match. Denver Christian advances to play third-seeded Faith Christian – which knocked off 3A Metro League foe Colorado Academy, 4-1, earlier Thursday – in Saturday night’s 3A final. “We just didn’t get the bounces,” said Junior Sutherland, who coached his final game for Aspen after six seasons. “That’s the way it goes. It’s a tough loss, but you’ve got to deal with it. They’ve had a great season. I’m so proud of them. It’s a great group of kids, and it’s just unlucky. I feel bad for them that they didn’t get their goal.”Aspen’s goal was to play each game as if it was the last, all the way to winning a state championship for Sutherland, who lost in the final in 2000, his first season.It’s not how Aspen’s players – most notably the team’s 11 seniors -wanted it to end. But, then again, no one except the Skiers themselves expected them to finish among the state’s final four.And, if not for a twisted ankle and a less-than-100-percent Stephen Buzbee, Aspen might have tied the match in the 64th minute. The Skiers were also without the services of starting senior forward Eric Sciarrone, who was serving a one-game suspension for a red card in Saturday’s quarterfinal.Buzbee, the third-leading scorer in 3A with 29 goals, was injured in Monday’s practice and fought through all 80 minutes Thursday night on a bum wheel. His trademark burst was gone, and Crusaders defenders hemmed him in all night. But he nearly had the equalizer for Aspen with less than 20 minutes to go when senior midfielder Nicky Anastas slipped him a near-perfect pass off a direct kick that Buzbee was inches away from tapping into goal.Buzbee sneaked behind two defenders on the set play but just couldn’t catch up to the ball. “Inches,” Sutherland said. “It was that close.” The coach, however, brushed off the question of whether the outcome would have been different if his star player was at full strength. “It’s all hindsight,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s not a big deal.”The Skiers were caught completely off guard in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Crusaders nearly punched in a goal in the sixth minute, then took the lead with a beautiful lofted shot from junior midfielder Joseph Lammers in the ninth minute, followed by a goal from forward Jarrod Wiggins in the 12th.The first shot struck just off the field-goal post above the goal’s crossbar. Lammers’ score initially appeared to be just a lofted cross into the goal box. Aspen keeper Andy Conarroe seemed to assume the same and let the ball sail over his head, only to watch it tuck itself into the top left corner of the net. Wiggins’ score was set up when a cross came into the box and he, Skiers defender Matt Cooper and Conarroe all converged. There was a collision before the ball squirted out and Wiggins finished.After that, the Crusaders were mostly content to pack in the box on defense and stymie the Skiers offensive attack. The plan worked to near perfection, except for in the 22nd minute when Aspen’s Baker Boyd connected on a crossing pass from teammate Jesus Meza.”It was a hard-fought game,” said Crusaders coach Ed Butelyn. “They’ve all been hard-fought. We’ve had three one-goal difference games so far and they’ve all been tough … It’s what we’ve been doing all year. We haven’t been giving up more than two goals in any game this year. We made one mistake tonight, and Aspen cranked it in the back of the net and finished it, and we talked about that at halftime. We just said no more open shots, you’ve got to take care of those. Obviously the guys got it done.”The Skiers kept the ball on the Crusaders’ side of the field for the majority of the second half, yet managed only four shots on goal.Aspen just couldn’t find the holes in the tight Crusaders defense, and couldn’t find the time to ever really set something up.”It just sucks, but we played hard,” Aspen senior captain Ryder Fyrwald said. “I don’t think we were quite ready in the beginning, but we came back and fought hard.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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