Basalt, Aspen soccer teams well represented on all-league squad
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
For the first time in nearly a decade, 3A Region 4’s girls soccer player of the year hails from a school other than Basalt. That honor went to Coal Ridge goalkeeper Tori Verdieck.
Not all is lost for the Longhorns, however. Four players – Annette Stenstadvold, Alex Dewind, Tori Kungli and Emma Kading – were recently named to the conference’s first team. Alexa Aitken and Katie King were honorable mentions.
Aspen was well represented, too, with Nicole Weiss, Chloe Horner and Haley Rinaldi making the first team and Sally Boelens and Lindsey Anderson garnering honorable mentions.
Brian Blair (Coal Ridge) and Bob Bandoni (Vail Mountain School) shared coach of the year honors.
“[Verdieck] clearly was the standout. … She’s such a phenomenal player,” Basalt head coach Makenzie Eshelman said Friday.
“I think [our selections] were all deserving, pretty much our whole team was deserving. From our goalie to our forwards, I think they could’ve all been on the first team. It’s a hard decision to make.”
Stenstadvold’s selection likely was a no-brainer. The junior midfielder overwhelmed defenses with her aggressiveness and sure ball handling, and she routinely generated scoring chances for teammates. Basalt outscored opponents, 67-14.
She was at her best on the biggest stage, too, scoring one goal and assisting on another in the Longhorns’ playoff-opening win against Bayfield.
“She’s so strong defensively and offensively and makes things happen,” Eshelman said. “Usually, our goals started with her making a good pass.”
Dewind, who shared the midfield with Stenstadvold, also wreaked havoc on the opposition, Eshelman said.
“She looks pretty and skinny, but as soon as she gets the ball in front of her she’s a maniac,” the coach added. “She played with heart and all-out at all times.”
The same could be said of sophomore Tori Kungli, a talented forward nicknamed “El Toro Loco.”
“She plays out of control and is very skilled all around as a player,” Eshelman said. “We’re expecting good things out of her.”
While Kungli, Stenstadvold, Dewind and King – a versatile sophomore who made an impact all over the field in 2010 – give Basalt plenty of reason for optimism going into next season, replacing Kading and Aitken will be no small feat.
Kading, a sweeper, was a team leader and one of the squad’s most consistent players, Eshelman said.
“She keeps everyone together. … She was basically our defense,” the coach added. “She saved our butts a couple times. When things broke down, she was always the last girl standing.”
Aitken provided a calming presence on defense, Eshelman said. The senior’s demeanor and strong play was missed in the postseason; Aitken suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Longhorns’ regular-season finale against Glenwood Springs.
“Girls like that are always hard to replace,” Eshelman said, “but I think we’ll be good again next year.”
Skiers coach John Gillies feels the same way – assuming he can find a way to replace consistent scorer Rinaldi and the bulk of his defense, which proved to be the team’s strength during this spring’s run to the second round of the playoffs.
Seniors Weiss, Boelens and Anderson – who was named Aspen High’s female athlete of the year at the recent senior banquet – and junior Horner led a unit that surrendered just 15 goals and helped log 10 shutouts in 17 games.
“My biggest concern this year was whether we could score goals, not whether we were going to concede them,” Gillies said. “What we’ll lose in mature defenders we’ll hopefully gain in raw goal-scoring talent.”
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After falling through a trapdoor in his Telluride home a couple of weeks ago, Chris Busbee wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep his streak going. He had run in every New York City Marathon since 1998 and was going to run it virtually this year in Aspen before his spill put all that in jeopardy.