Steamboat Springs girls soccer knocks off Aspen, winning 5-4 despite a hat trick from Francis

Leah Vann
Steamboat Today
Aspen sophomore Kelley Francis looks to pass in the game against Steamboat Springs on Thursday, March 21 at Gardner Field. (Photo by Leah Vann)
Leah Vann

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In the first game on its home turf, the Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team saw its scoring drought come to an end.

The Class 4A Sailors (1-2) hosted 3A Aspen (2-2) on Thursday in what turned into a back-and-forth offensive shootout. Steamboat would have the final say, 5-4, to notch its first victory of the season after going scoreless in its first two losses.

“It sets us up for a lot of momentum,” Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. “If you go 0-3 you’re really scratching your head.”

The Skiers were the first to strike when junior Payton Curley drew Steamboat goalie Caroline Lupori to the outer right edge of the goal, knocking a ground shot into the left corner.

Aspen’s top scorer, sophomore Kelley Francis, knocked in the next goal less than 30 seconds later to spot a 2-0 lead for the Skiers. It was the beginning of a long night of seeing Francis’ shots hit the net. She led the Skiers with three goals on the night.

The Sailors found strength in their speed on offense, launching their first two goals within less than three minutes of each other.

“Just the ability to answer back and it starts with the tremendous character and that says a lot, especially after our first two games,” Bohlmann said. “We go down 2-nil, you could’ve gotten inside your head, could’ve gotten frustrated, could’ve gotten down, and they kept playing.”

Steamboat’s first goal of the season came on a breakaway by junior Sophie Leeson, tricking the goalie with her footwork as she sped around and chipped in an easy goal for a 2-1 score. Leeson was the star of the night for the Sailors, also scoring three goals.

“Her mobility off the ball was really good,” Bohlmann said. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve been talking about up front is the mobility off the ball, working off of each other, running laterally, looking to be those target players and it was much improvement. She covered a lot of ground tonight.”

SSHS senior Rachelle Koly sprinted down the outer left edge of the field, battling a defender that followed her footsteps. She launched a shot from nearly 20 yards out, crashing the top left corner of the net to tie the game at 2-2.

“Goals are scored by other teams making mistakes and boy did we make a few today,” Aspen coach John Gillies said. “They passed the ball around well, but it’s something we had under control and all of a sudden they score that silly goal and we panicked … it was like a deer in the headlights.”

Steamboat claimed the lead when sophomore Lilli Armstrong attempted a shot and Leeson drove in its ricochet to take the 3-2 advantage. Aspen’s Francis followed with a goal shortly after to tie it at 3-3.

Just before the half ended, Steamboat senior Delaney Moon knocked in a fourth goal on a header off a corner kick by senior Megan Salyer to reclaim the lead, 4-3.

“We got caught out with some of your (Steamboat) girls’ speeds,” Gillies said. “We tried to compensate by putting girls with more speed and less skills so we lost something and gained something.”

The pace had been set, but the Skiers weren’t letting up. Francis kicked off the second half with her third goal to tie the game up at 4-4.

Stronger defense limited token opportunities for shots on goal in the second half. The Skiers and Sailors remained scoreless until halfway through when Leeson scored her final goal of the night on a header to give the Sailors a 5-4 lead.

As the clock ticked down the final seconds, the Skiers scrambled to put together a final corner kick. Francis sprinted to the edge, lobbing a kick to the middle of both teams and Steamboat had the first touch, knocking it out of contention as the clock struck zero.

“It was a good game. It’s a shame it ends this way,” Gillies said. “We wanted to play Steamboat. I know they’ve got a great program, I know they’re good. … We should walk off the field feeling privileged.”

Aspen, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, now is off for spring break.