Basalt wins first-round fight |

Basalt wins first-round fight

Tim Mutrie
Basalts Jessi Graff boots a long-range shot for the first goal against Machebeuf Wednesday in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament at the BHS field. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

It was the closest thing to a street fight the Basalt High girls soccer team has seen in some time. It wasn’t dirty though, just an intense back-and-forth succession of attacks, repulsed attacks and counter-attacks. There was little if any retreating or whining (or whistles, for that matter).The first decisive blow was struck by Basalt’s Jessi Graf, with a masterful 30-yard lob-job for first blood, and Maddie Hoffman booted home the second – and game-winner – from close range. And then there was Darbi Scherer at the other end coming up with huge saves as the Lady Longhorns ousted Machebeuf 2-1 in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament Wednesday afternoon at the BHS field.Couple the aforementioned heroics with a mighty wind that blew up Basalt’s back in the second half (it rose from utter calm just about the same time as Graf’s goal), and there was good reason for dozens of screaming Basalt fans lining the north sideline to go nuts.”I’ve played a lot of soccer games,” said Graf, the center midfielder, “but nothing this intense. Being a freshman and being able to participate with this team we’ve got is really special.”

No. 4 Basalt (13-3-0 overall) advances to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tourney, while No. 13 Machebeuf (9-5-2) is finished. Early next week, Basalt will host No. 12 Denver Christian (11-1-4), which upset No. 5 St. Mary’s (14-2-0) 4-1 last night in Colorado Springs.The first half saw no scoring but multiple opportunities for both teams, with Scherer logging the first two of her nine saves in the opening five minutes. Basalt’s Katie Staerkel and Sofie Stenstadvold – a midfielder who commanded the presence of a field general yesterday – each scrubbed shots wide of the Machebeuf goal.By halftime there was a palpable feeling that the match would be determined by the first goal. And in the 48th minute, Basalt freshman winger Katherine Fitzpatrick picked the pockets of a defender deep in a Machebeuf corner. Fitzpatrick beelined a pass back out to Graf – lurking well beyond the corner of the goalie box – who settled the ball and then uncorked a floater than caught Machebeuf goalie Katie Vail too far out of the net. Basalt 1, Machebeuf 0.”The pass from Kat was right there, at the perfect angle,” Graf said, “so I shot it. I had a good feeling when I hit that one.”So did Basalt and its fans. The tension of the game was quickly unleashed on Graf in a swarming group hug before the restart.

“Now the second half has started Machebeuf, now the second half has started!” Machebeuf coach Alex Wilschke roared from the sideline.Meanwhile, Basalt coach Chris Woods was spotted cranking his arm wildly like a Canadian hockey player (and not quite the Australian soccer player he is).And then came the wind, gusting up to 20 or 25 mph toward the Machebeuf goal. “Come on wind,” Woods muttered as he paced the south sideline. “Blow you!”But Basalt’s momentum was killed in the 61st minute when Machebeuf freshman Kelly Mapes scored on a rebound. Scherer made the initial save on a diving effort, but contact from a charging Machebeuf forward knocked the ball loose, and it eventually found Mapes’ foot. So while the Basalt bench screamed for a whistle for goalie interference, now Machebeuf had something to celebrate.But not for long. In the 68th minute, as the ball rattled around in the Machebeuf box, the hard-charging Stenstadvold tipped over to Hoffman, who had a moment of clarity amid the confusion around her.

“Somehow it got to my feet and I thought about something Woodsie tells us all the time when we’re in close – SHOOT! I kicked with all my might and it was in the goal,” said Hoffman. (More specifically, it was in the top right corner).The frenzied pace never slacked off though, and the fitness and ferocity of Basalt defenders like Bailey Holmes, Amy Brumet, Emily Birk and Deanna Spracher came to the fore as the ‘Horns fought off the final minutes.”Very physical, and I say it again and again, it’s a great game to watch,” said BHS coach Woods, “all back n’ forth with quality chances on both sides. But we got it done.””Revel in your win,” Woods then shouted aloud to his team. “Great win.”Machebeuf coach Wilschke, who hasn’t gone out of his way to pay Basalt any compliments in recent years, had the anticipated take: “It was a clean physical game, and the wind came up in the second half, which didn’t help us. We had three or four opportunities in the first half that we didn’t capitalize on, and if we had, it might have been over in the first half.”

“Basalt’s an excellent team, but they just have not seen the type of competition that Metro League teams [like Machebeuf] do every week.”Basalt’s next match, against defending 3A state champion Denver Christian, serves as a rematch of last year’s state semifinal. Basalt lost 1-nil. Woods said the game will be played either on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at the BHS field.Woods said he hoped the mob of Longhorn supporters return, along with a few more friends.”I have to pass along a great thank-you to all the supporters who came out and were really loud,” Woods added. “I think that made a difference, with all the yelling and screaming. A great show of town spirit and the girls really appreciate it.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is

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