Vail outlasts Aspen, wins fourth straight | AspenTimes.com

Vail outlasts Aspen, wins fourth straight

Ian CroppVail correspondent

Aspens Stephen Buzbee battles through traffic Tuesday at Vail Mountain School. (Bret Hartman/Vail Daily)

A post is almost always a goalie’s best friend in soccer. A defender, however, can be a goalie’s best friend, or persona non grata, depending on how the ball bounces.On Tuesday, Vail Mountain School goalie Jordy Coffey got by with a little help from his friends in a 2-1 victory over Aspen in East Vail. Gore Rangers Bobby Le Gaye, David DeLine and Chris Woods sacrificed their bodies to make saves that left Aspen incredulous.”That was brutal. I got hit everywhere,” Woods said. “I knew where the ball was going, so I stepped in front of the shot.”As much as it may have hurt, the ball went where Vail Mountain needed it to go most of the game.”We definitely had some luck going with us today, especially in the second half,” said Vail Mountain coach Bob Bandoni.For Aspen, the culmination of bad bounces came in overtime.After Vail Mountain’s Max Avery weaved around Aspen defenders, he touched the ball to Tucker Shelden in the Aspen box. Shelden ripped a shot that deflected off an Aspen defender and bounced past Aspen goalie Fred Bernard.”The bounce fell for [Vail Mountain] and they capitalized on it,” said Aspen coach Grant Sutherland.

Lightning fastOnly five minutes into the game, the score was knotted at one. Aspen struck first on a defensive mistake by Vail Mountain.The Skiers’ Stephen Buzbee intercepted a pass deep in the Gore Rangers’ zone, then passed to Eric Sciarrone who slammed the ball into the net.A few minutes later, Vail Mountain’s Blake Armstrong placed a perfect through ball to Jackson Higgins. Higgins met the ball, dribbled it once, and pounded it home to tie the game.For the rest of the half, Vail Mountain used ball control to create opportunities.”I thought we really managed the game through the midfield,” Bandoni said. “But the momentum switched in the second half.”Before the first half ended, lightning strikes, rain and hail caused a 20-minute delay. The final two minutes of the first half were played out after the delay, and then the teams switched side for the second half.BootingIn the second half, both teams used a more aerial attack.

“It looked like we were in England 20 years ago,” Bandoni said. “The ball was being fired from backs to backs with strikers trying to get underneath them. I thought the whole midfield, especially ours, collapsed.”Aspen’s long passes led to many scoring chances, but Coffey and the Vail Mountain defense were up to the task. Coffey, and his defenders finished with 11 saves.”Our goalie played as a sweeper, and was very comfortable playing in the box, and outside the box, and we knew we were going to have to manage the final third of the field,” Bandoni said.Vail Mountain didn’t have to worry much about the middle of the field.”They really didn’t have a midfield, so they would play the ball to their forwards, over our heads,” DeLine said.The pressure exerted by Aspen forwards Buzbee and Jesus Meza took its toll on the Gore Rangers defense, and led to a melee in front of Coffey in the dwindling minutes of the second half.A high ball sailed into the box, and Coffey saved the ball but collided with an Aspen player. With Coffey on the ground, Vail Mountain defenders standing only feet outside the goal line blocked two shots, preserving the tie.”It was crazy in the box. Bodies were flying everywhere,” said DeLine. “We were still pumped up from that play, and came out strong in overtime.”Tricky

The Skiers had some trouble with the turf at Vail Mountain School.”It’s tough coming and playing on this field,” Sutherland said. “You only get here 45 minutes before the game, and you can practice on it then.”Sutherland is excited to play the Gore Rangers on the Skiers’ home field in two weeks. But Bandoni knows the ball bounces both ways on any field.”The grass will surely hold balls up, but it will hold balls up they don’t,” Bandoni said.One thing that won’t change is Aspen’s well-designed back-line play, which caused Vail Mountain to be whistled for offsides many times.”They play a very high line and they also step. I thought they were quite effective in not only holding the high line but pulling the trap,” Bandoni said.Vail Mountain faces Roaring Fork Thursday at 4 p.m., on the road.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at icropp@vaildaily.com