After a slow start, Aspen girls soccer finding rhythm as playoffs get going |

After a slow start, Aspen girls soccer finding rhythm as playoffs get going

Skiers play at Manitou Springs in the first round on Wednesday

Aspen High School girls soccer coach Chris Ellis listens during the halftime break against Basalt on Thursday, June 10, 2021, on the AHS turf. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

There was nothing smooth about the start of the Aspen High School girls soccer season this spring. The Skiers did beat Delta in the opener, but then played to a draw with Roaring Fork and lost 1-0 at Basalt to put some early doubt into a season that was going to be short and sweet and have little room for error.

“We had a lot of injuries early on in the beginning of the season. Our first week really, a lot of girls started to get hurt,” Aspen senior Grace Romero said prior to Tuesday’s practice. “Where we ended up last week was a great way to go into the playoffs and I think all we can hope for is to continue to play the way we have been playing against some of the harder teams.”

After that 1-1-1 start, the Skiers won four straight games en route to finishing the regular season 6-3-1 overall and secured second place in the Class 3A Western Slope League to land a spot in the 16-team state tournament.

Aspen, the tournament’s No. 15 seed, will play Wednesday night at No. 2 Manitou Springs (10-0) with a trip to the state quarterfinals on the line. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. to avoid what is expected to be nearly 100-degree temperatures during the day on the Front Range.

“Just getting to that milestone, getting to the playoffs, was definitely our No. 1 goal and it feels great to have accomplished that,” AHS senior Caprice Seeman said on Tuesday. “We are all ready to see how tomorrow goes and kind of give it our all. It will definitely be a hard one.”

The Mustangs certainly look daunting on paper, having outscored their opponents 82-1 this season. Yes, in 10 games Manitou Springs has only conceded a single goal, that coming in a 3-1 win over Thomas MacLaren School on June 8.

In comparison, Aspen has outscored its opponents 33-11 over 10 games this season. While the numbers look to heavily be in favor of the Mustangs going in, Aspen coach Chris Ellis knows there will be opportunities the team has to take advantage of.

“Anybody who makes the playoffs, anybody who is ranked as high as they are, is going to be a competent outfit, no question about it. But on any given day, anybody can beat anybody,” Ellis said. “We have to go into that with our patterns of play, with our skill level, and we have to be patient. You can’t rush that. You have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself, and you have to make sure you finish, because you won’t necessarily get a lot of opportunities.”

Aspen relies heavily on Seeman, who led the team with 12 goals this season. Although, junior Jenny Ellis (five goals) and sophomore Alexis Cordts-Pearce (six goals) are proven offensive threats, as well.

The last time Aspen girls soccer made a deep playoff run was in 2018, when it made the state semifinals as a lowly 13 seed. This year’s seniors were freshmen then, and they would certainly like to make a Cinderella run of their own to end their AHS careers.

“We are a lot closer and we’ve had the opportunity to build off of each other a lot more,” Seeman said of the team’s development this spring. “It definitely took us a little bit of time to work together on and off the field and get to know how each other plays. But I think we’ve conquered that and we are at that place where each player knows the other players, which helped us come together more as a team.”

The winner of Wednesday’s game between Aspen and Manitou Springs will play either No. 7 Liberty Common or No. 10 Colorado Academy in the quarterfinals on Saturday, hosted by the highest remaining seed.

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