Aspen boys soccer falls at Vail Mountain School
VAIL — This should be a race.
The Vail Mountain School soccer team took Round 1 — the nonleague version — from Aspen, 3-2, on a soggy Tuesday at iconic Bandoni Alumni Field.
With these two teams facing each other again in the 3A Slope meeting, postgame turned into a mutual-admiration society.
“They’re a good side,” VMS coach Pete Petrovski said. “They’re well-coached and they’ve got good players out there. They played well. I take a lot of pride in that result. We beat a good team today.”
“We’ve got a good feeling about this season, and we’ve been working hard. We’ve had some good results,” Aspen coach Dave Francis said. “We always knew Vail were going to be very, very tough. They were, in my opinion, in our conference, the toughest team we played last year. I expect them to challenge for the conference. I expect them to be doing well in state.”
The 3A Slope will not be solely a Vail-Aspen thing. Coal Ridge, the defending league champion and current No. 1 in the 3A CHSAA poll, is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Basalt, though off to a slow start, always seems to figure into the equation.
And that would make four teams for three guaranteed spots in the state tournament from the league.
In the meantime, it’s a solid win for Vail Mountain (1-1-1), which lost to 5A Overland and drew with Denver Christian.
“It’s really nice,” said VMS senior Clay Kirwood, who was in on all three of his team’s goals. “To get the win puts our confidence up, for sure.”
Meanwhile, Aspen at 4-2 isn’t exactly biting its nails after the loss.
The Skiers, in fact, got out to a quick start with Guillermo Flores scoring on a breakaway down the left side during the first minute.
“I was upset, but I wasn’t concerned,” said Petrovski.
The Gore Rangers eventually led 3-1 before Aspen cut the margin to one.
Petrovski said he wasn’t concerned because Kirwood and Dylan Cunningham have the Psychic Friends Network connection going. Kirwood to Cunningham was the equalizer, and then the opposite direction on a corner kick gave VMS the lead for good at 19 minutes.
“We worked well today,” Kirwood said. “I think we’re great friends.”
An alignment change doesn’t hurt either. The Gore Rangers went from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. That meant VMS’ Liam Hurley up to center striker with Kirwood and J.P. Elmblad on the wings.
VMS seemed to take control during the second half when Kirwood’s free kick rebounded straight to a streaking Eric Zdechlik, who was making a beautiful diagonal run from the left and smashed it home.
The Gore Rangers were a bit shaky in closing out the game, and Aspen pressed the advantage.
“Once they went, 3-1 up, it looked like they dropped off a bit,” Francis said. “You win a few bounces, a couple of 50-50s and everyone perks up. We could feel we were starting to win some battles around the middle of the field. Everyone feeds off that energy.”
VMS will have to be a little more organized in back, or the Skiers will likely capitalize in their meeting on Sept. 30 in Pitkin County.
Aspen will return home to host Rifle in a nonleague match Thursday.
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