Soccer: Basalt ousted in Englewood | AspenTimes.com

Soccer: Basalt ousted in Englewood

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesBasalt assistant coach Dario Del Piccolo consoles Hector Morales after Thursday's loss.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Despite being thoroughly outplayed, the Basalt soccer team hung on in the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s 3A state quarterfinal game against Kent Denver.

In the final half, however, things went completely awry for the tournament’s only remaining public school. The third-seeded Sun Devils struck for a goal in the first 5 minutes of the final frame, tacked on three more down the stretch and dominated throughout in a 4-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Longhorns.

Basalt (14-2-1) now has been ousted from the playoffs in the Round of 8 in five of the last six seasons.

“There were a lot of mental breakdowns in the second half, and the whole game,” Longhorns head coach Brent Hayes said. “I’ve been trying to break them out of this whole ‘Denver mystique,’ but they played scared from the get-go. When a team is at home playing on their field, when they see one ounce of fear they take it to you.

“We were outclassed today. They pretty much kicked our butts all over the field.”

Basalt reverted to “kicking the ball without looking where it was going” in the first half, Hayes said. The squad abandoned the possession game that proved so successful in Saturday’s 4-1, second-round victory over Lutheran.

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While Kent Denver took advantage, producing a host of scoring chances, it could not pull ahead. That changed in the early stages of the second half, however, when junior Matt Olson put the Sun Devils on top for good.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember that goal, but it wasn’t a fluke or anything. It was a good goal,” Hayes said. “I’d have to say we kind of mentally fell apart almost right away.”

The Longhorns managed to pull things together for about 10 minutes.

Then, Kent struck again. Basalt players thought the ball had rolled out of play and paused momentarily, allowing the Sun Devils to pounce; senior Kiefer Solarte found the back of the net to stretch the lead to two.

“To be two down, they were already pretty distraught to begin with. That was tough,” Hayes said.

Things would get no better from there for the visitors.

Hayes’ attempt to generate more offense by moving Brandon Henriquez from defense to forward proved ineffective; Kent Denver exploited the shift almost immediately, generating two goals from junior Austin Hughes in a roughly 12-minute span to put this one away.

“I pulled back after that so we didn’t get totally wrecked,” Hayes said. “I figured it was better to go down swinging by four goals than to settle for a 2-0 loss.

“They’re a sound team, really tall and very athletic. Certainly the best we’ve played all year. … We were playing back on our heels and just booting the ball. A large part of that was due to Kent – they were really good at pressuring everything. We tried playing the possession game, but it was more of a dribbling possession. They’re too good of a team to sit there with the ball at your feet for any length of time. … It was rough.”

Hector Morales converted a penalty kick in the waning seconds for the Longhorns, who last earned a semifinal berth in 2005.

“I’m not disappointed by the effort, but maybe by the lack of focus,” Hayes said. “Instead of playing our game, we reacted to them. … They dictated play and were pretty damn good at it.

“We didn’t have any business winning. … Today, we weren’t in the same league.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com