Basalt tops Aspen in heated match
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Behind hat tricks from sophomore Ashley Eaton and senior Molly McGrath, the Basalt High girls soccer team dispatched rival Aspen 7-1 Tuesday afternoon to improve to 6-0 in Class 3A Western Slope League play and 8-1 overall.
But for the 150 fans assembled at the BHS field yesterday, the game’s poor and at times mystifying officiating, and the subsequent sideline shouting and on-the-field jostling as a result, took center stage.
The fireworks started in the 11th minute when referee Steve Carter awarded Basalt a penalty kick after whistling an Aspen defender for pushing inside the goalie box. BHS coach Heather Walker conceded later, “We didn’t think we deserved it either.”
The questionable call set the tone the rest of the way as coaches, players and fans got swept up in the match that Walker later termed “out of control.”
“It’s always a big rivalry, but this was something new,” said BHS senior center midfielder Stephanie Kemp. “It was more a spirited debate than a soccer game.”
Aspen’s co-head coaches Jon Gillies and Grant “Junior” Sutherland were both ejected by Carter, in the first and second halfs, respectively, for arguing calls from the sidelines. And Aspen’s Liz Norton was issued a red card (the equivalent of an ejection) by Carter in the second half, apparently for disputing a “no call” during play.
In perhaps the most mysterious call of the day, Carter issued Basalt’s Lauren Flood with a yellow card – leaving her another card shy of an ejection – after her point-blank shot on net struck Aspen goalie Merritt Gates in the face late in the second half. While Gates was forced to leave the game, the play appeared entirely accidental.
“The ref’s explanation made no sense,” Walker said. “Lauren would’ve rather hit the net rather than Merritt’s face.”
Additionally, a linesman ordered at least one fan to leave the fenced-in soccer field complex for being argumentative.
“The officiating was poor and it set them (the Aspen coaches) off,” Walker said. “The ref just couldn’t control the game.”
McGrath converted the penalty shot in the 11th minute to lift BHS to a 1-0 lead.
Basalt’s Eaton scored her first goal of the day in the 24th minute after settling a pass from Christie Thompson at the top of the goalie box, splitting two Aspen defenders and tapping a soft shot past a charging Gates. Eaton found the goal again in the 33rd minute on a high volley from near midfield. The shot bounced inside the box, and a leaping Gates managed to get a mit on it, but failed to redirect it, and Basalt took a 3-0 lead.
Aspen’s only goal came in the 38th minute when senior Lacee Patterson settled the ball near midfield and struck a streaking Taylor Norton along the left wing. Angling in toward the net with a defender on her hip, Norton touched a shot far-post to beat the oncoming BHS goalie, Autumn Caughern.
Moments before halftime, Eaton recorded her third goal of the game in a play that also led to Aspen’s Gillies ejection. BHS defender Natalie Hood lofted a clearing pass into the Aspen zone from midfield. The Aspen defensive line froze, thinking Basalt was off-side, but no whistle blew and Eaton finished for an uncontested score.
After the match, Gillies and Sutherland declined to comment specifically on the officiating, saying they’d take up the matter with league officials.
“It’s a big game, a rival game, and they lost control of it,” Sutherland offered. “All the credit to Basalt just the same.”
McGrath scored a pretty goal in the opening minutes of the second half, one-timing a volley from Lauren Flood over Gates’ head to lift BHS to a 5-1 lead. Flood assisted on McGrath’s third goal of the day in the 51st minute, hitting McGrath at the top of the goalie box. McGrath wheeled around several times looking for options, before settling on a left-footer bound for the extreme upper right corner of the net.
In the 58th minute, Eaton scored her fourth goal of the day, scooping up a ball that escaped Gates’ hands in front of the net. McGrath recorded the assist.
With the win, Basalt made a big step toward defending its Class 3A Western Slope League title. Aspen, last year’s runner-up to Basalt in the league standings, dropped to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in league play.
“We kept our composure. A lot of things were taking us away from the game, but that’s what happens sometimes,” said McGrath. “We did what we came to do. But it’s funny because sometimes you remember all the other stuff that goes on more than the win.”
“Aspen kept fighting ’til the very end,” added Eaton. “And for the most part, they kept their composure too.”
On Thursday, BHS travels to face Olathe, while Aspen hosts Grand Junction on Friday at 4 p.m.
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