After midseason lull, Aspen boys soccer came together to make its playoff push |

After midseason lull, Aspen boys soccer came together to make its playoff push

The Skiers are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2018 and play at DSST: Green Valley Ranch on Wednesday

The Aspen High School boys soccer team practices on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, on the AHS turf.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

A confident group early in the season, the Aspen High School boys soccer team lost its footing midway through and could have seen its playoff aspirations slip away. But the Skiers came together in a way they hadn’t in many years and find themselves back in the postseason for the first time since 2018.

“It was that pivotal moment in the midseason where we were losing games and we knew we needed to win and to do that we needed to come together,” AHS junior Carson Miller said. “Some drama within the team. And actually, we came out of it a lot stronger than we went into it. It was good, because once we got a chance to settle all the beef and disagreements within the players, coming out of that was huge because everyone became a little closer and they realized it was more than soccer and it always has been.”

Aspen (9-5-1 overall) won four straight games to end the regular season and will be the No. 19 seed in the 32-team Class 3A state tournament, which was announced Monday by CHSAA. The Skiers first-round opponent is No. 14 DSST: Green Valley Ranch (9-3-3), a game scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday on the Evie Garrett Dennis Campus in Denver.

The winner will advance to the second-round game on Tuesday against either No. 3 Faith Christian or No. 30 Gunnison. The other two games in the quadrant include No. 6 Coal Ridge vs. No. 27 Prospect Ridge Academy, and No. 11 Roaring Fork vs. No. 22 Bishop Machebeuf, an unusually high amount of Western Slope League foes crammed together in the same part of the bracket.

“That middle section of the draw, you can probably flip them the other way and they would be just as equal. It’s a little bit of a lottery. We do find ourselves in a bracket with Faith, which they are a very good team,” AHS coach Dave Francis said. “There had been some doubts that had crept in through that midsection of the season. But that really made them realize the principles of working hard and sticking to your job on the field, and that just giving your all out there can take you a long way. Then add in the level of skill some of the players have and you can be successful against some of the top teams.”

Aspen’s season started incredibly well. They lost 1-0 in overtime to Class 2A powerhouse Crested Butte in the opener, but won the next four games, including over eventual 2A state qualifier Telluride, 4A state qualifier Steamboat Springs and rival Basalt, which is not in the playoffs.

But, sitting at 4-1, the Skiers then lost 3-1 to Roaring Fork, the start of a 1-4-1 stretch that had them looking like anything but a playoff team. A few players were accessed red cards during that time and were forced to miss games, and added internal strife between players made that quick start seem a world away.

The Aspen High School boys soccer team practices on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, on the AHS turf.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Then, on Oct. 12, Aspen knocked off then-No. 6 Roaring Fork on the AHS turf to jumpstart a strong finish to its 15-game slate. The Skiers also beat Delta (7-1), Basalt (3-1) and Colorado Rocky Mountain School (3-0) down the stretch to lock up a postseason position.

“Getting back into it, those players came back, the energy got back up, and we realized we need to win if we want to go to the playoffs. So we kind of kicked it into gear and did it,” said AHS senior Brody Taylor, who transferred in this season from Denver’s Dakota Ridge High School and has easily led the Skiers in goals this fall with 15. “There is a certain aspect of calmness that is good for the team. As long as we remain focused and keep our energy high for the playoffs, we’ll be good.”

This calmness through the late-season win streak has the team feeling good entering Wednesday’s playoff game. The Skiers know essentially nothing about Green Valley Ranch, which plays in the 2A/3A Confluence League with the other Denver School of Science and Technology sides, but their newfound mojo should make up for the unknown.

Aspen’s last playoff game came against 3A superpower Kent Denver in 2018, a 4-0 first-round loss. Before that, it was 2015, a 2-0 loss to, yes, Kent Denver. And in 2014, AHS lost a first-round game to Kent Denver, again, 3-0. This season, Kent has struggled and is a mere No. 26 seed and would not see Aspen unless both teams made a surprising run to the semifinals.

“The boys worked really hard and even from the get-go we were like, ‘We really have a chance this year.’ And that hope just fostered a mentality of really going out there and trying to win every game,” Miller said. “Making playoffs is the final step and it feels really good.”


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