Basalt soccer finds offensive stride, downs rival Aspen |

Basalt soccer finds offensive stride, downs rival Aspen

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Basalt head soccer coach John McDermott has eagerly been awaiting the return of his team’s scoring touch.

The Longhorns found it Tuesday on the turf against Aspen. Basalt erupted for three goals in a five-minute span in the second half – matching its total production from the last three games – and cruised, 5-0, in a decidedly one-sided affair between valley rivals.

“We needed that one,” McDermott said with a smile as he walked off the pitch. “We knew it would come. As a team, we were ready to explode. Today, we did.”

In the 55th minute, senior Jake Wirkler pushed the ball deep up the right side before lobbing a cross into the box. Teammate Austin Long one-timed a shot past sprawling Skiers goalkeeper Jesis Andrade.

Three minutes later, Omar Lopez found some open space just outside the box and fired a rocket that drilled the crossbar. Basalt junior Seba Liuzzi knocked home the deflection near the far post, stretching the advantage to 3-0.

David Gruenefeldt joined the act two minutes later, lining a shot that clipped the top-left corner of the net.

“We’ve been struggling up front, not getting goals in … and have come out too cocky at times,” said Long, whose team uncharacteristically dropped its last two 3A Western Slope games. “We wanted to set the example for all other games today, come out with our all.”

Consider that done. The Longhorns (3-3-1 overall, 2-2 conference) caught the Aspen defense napping just two minutes into the game. A ball bounced multiple times in the box and no Skiers defenders closed. Wirkler swooped in and knocked the ball home, drawing the ire of Aspen coach Junior Sutherland, who watched his team surrender a similar goal Saturday against Hotchkiss – a game in which they squandered a two-goal advantage and wound up settling for a draw.

“We lost a bad goal in the first two minutes, and that set the pace,” said Sutherland, whose team dropped to 2-4-1. “The ball should never bounce in the box. We worked on it in practice [Monday]. To be down 1-0 after two minutes against a team like Basalt, it’s hard.

“We stood around and let them play, and we got punished. … After you lose the second [goal], you get deflated, and Basalt produced the killer punch.”

Johny Diaz stretched the lead to five when, after being tackled from behind in the box in the 73rd minute, he converted the penalty kick.

“We were outplayed,” Sutherland said.

McDermott hopes Tuesday’s effort is proof his team has shook off its early season inconsistency. After beating Denver Christian on the season’s first weekend and then dominating Vail Mountain School to open league play, the Longhorns dropped games to Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Roaring Fork and tied 4A Glenwood Springs.

Basalt visits VMS at 4 p.m. Thursday. Aspen will square off with visiting Coal Ridge at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“The other teams just got up to a better level, but it’s not like we were beaten on the field. … We controlled 80 percent of those games,” McDermott added. “The team is there, we just need to get it together. Once we got that first goal [against Aspen], it all fell into place.”

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