Aspen, Basalt advance to state soccer playoffs
The Aspen Times
Pack those bags for the state soccer playoffs.
Both the Aspen and Basalt high school boys soccer teams were selected this week to play in the Class 3A State Soccer Championships.
“This is great. These guys have worked so hard,” Aspen head coach Dave Francis said after the Aspen boys qualified for the postseason for the first time in several seasons. “We’re very excited.”
The Skiers (10-5-0) were picked as the No. 16 seed in the 32-team 3A playoff bracket.
They will take on No. 17 The Pinnacle High School of Thornton (10-4-1) at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Kent Denver High School in Englewood.
Kent Denver is the No. 1 overall seed in 3A with a 14-1-0 overall record. Kent Denver will host a four-team quadrant including Aspen-Pinnacle. Kent will take on No. 32 Estes Park (7-5-3) at 1 p.m. Friday.
The Aspen-Pinnacle winner will play the Kent Denver-Estes Park winner at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the state playoffs.
Basalt (6-9-0) was awarded the No. 31 seed, and the Longhorns will travel to Greeley to take on No. 2 overall seed Frontier Academy (12-1-2) at 1 p.m. Friday.
No. 15 Bruce Randoph will take on No. 18 Colorado Springs Christian in the other first-round game at Frontier Academy.
The Basalt-Frontier Academy winner will take on the Bruce Randolph-Colorado Springs Christian winner at 11 a.m. Saturday in Greeley.
“Our conference is very, very tough, as you can see (from the bracket),” Francis said, adding that the 3A Western Slope League landed five teams in the state playoff field this year. “This is good for our league going forward.”
In addition to Aspen and Basalt, the conference also qualified Roaring Fork, Vail Mountain School and Coal Ridge for the 2014 playoffs.
Roaring Fork No. 3
Roaring Fork (13-2-0) was designated as the overall No. 3 seed. The Rams will host No. 30 Roosevelt (8-7-0) at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Carbondale.
Vail Mountain (11-3-1) will host as the No. 5 overall seed. The Gore Rangers will host Vanguard School of Colorado Springs (10-4-0) on Friday afternoon.
And Coal Ridge (12-3-0) will advance as the No. 9 seed, set to take on No. 24 Sterling (7-7-1) at 1 p.m. Friday at Denver Science and Technology.
“We were seeded right in the middle … where we expected,” the Aspen head coach said.
Francis said the Skiers finished strong last season when they posted a 5-10-1 overall record.
“Now, they’re reaping the rewards,” he said after the Aspen boys won 10 matches this year, opposite 5 losses.
“We expect a good match Friday, a tough match,” Francis said, adding that the two teams have had similar seasons.
And if the Skiers can open with a victory, he said, they will have a golden opportunity.
“If we can win, then we get to play the No. 1 seed in the state,” Francis said of a possible second-round matchup against Kent Denver on the Sun Devils’ home field.
He said the Skiers are prepared for tough matches at state because they played tough matches in conference all season.
Francis said he was glad Basalt was rewarded for a solid showing in a tough league.
“Basalt didn’t have a great record,” Francis said. “But they played some ridiculously tough teams … like 8 of the top 10 teams were on their schedule.”
Basalt, for example, played Roaring Fork twice, Aspen twice as well as the other league powers.
The league’s overall strength was reflected in Roaring Fork’s record and No. 3 seeding.
The Rams, with 13 wins, lost only twice this year — once at Aspen and once at Basalt.
Aspen’s losses this season all came against playoff teams — Jefferson Academy, Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge and Vail Mountain (twice).
Likewise, Coal Ridge’s three losses all came against playoff squads — Vail Mountain, Roaring Fork and Sheridan.
Vail Mountain’s three losses?
One came against Class 5A Overland. The othr two losses came against Roaring Fork.
“This is fantastic,” Francis said. “Regardless of what happens, our guys have had huge success this year.”
“I think our league has been huge (for the playoff seedings),” Basalt head coach Brett Hayes said as the Longhorns prepped for their trip to Greeley.
He said that the league is building on what Roaring Fork and Coal Ridge had started last year.
Five teams this year will boost the conference, particularly with some first-and second-round victories.
Basalt enters the playoffs coming off one of the most difficult schedules in Class 3A soccer.
As a 31-seed, Hayes said the Longhorns are in a unique position heading to Frontier Academy.
“As a 31 seed, there is more pressure on the other team than on us,” Hayes said. “We’re not expected to win. But if we can keep it close, who knows what can happen.”
He said the Longhorns should have their usual iron-man squad of 13 players ready for Friday.
“The core we’ve had coming down the stretch is ready,” the Basalt head coach said. “If we play like we did against Roaring Fork … we have the capability of beating them.”
He said the youthful Longhorns will get a taste of state playoff soccer, including a long road trip to Greeley.
“It’s all part of the process,” Hayes said. “We’re confident; we’re excited.”
On Aug. 6, past and present members of the Vail Rugby Club gathered on the iconic Ford Field pitch to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a match against the Gentlemen of Aspen.
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