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Basalt’s Stewart is Slope soccer’s player of year

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan Longhorns forward Melissa Stewart races toward the Grand Valley goal on April 16 at Basalt High School.
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BASALT ” Melissa Stewart figured the award would go to a player from league-champion Coal Ridge.

There was little chance of that happening, however. Not after the dynamic Basalt soccer player scored 36 goals ” one of the highest totals in all of 3A.

For her efforts, Stewart, who is heading to the University of Louisiana at Monroe in the fall, was recently named Western Slope player of the year. The honor also secures the senior a spot on 3A’s All-State first team.

Teammate Kat Fitzpatrick took home the award in 2008, and Longhorns have captured the conference’s top individual honor in every season since 2001, Basalt head coach Makenzie Eshelman said Thursday.

Joining Stewart on the Slope’s first team are sophomores Annette Stenstadvold and Alex Dewind and junior Emma Kading. Senior Zoe Herreid and freshman Katie King were honorable mentions.

“She’s definitely the one we looked to to find the back of the net,” Eshelman said of Stewart. “I’ve never seen somebody who could shoot quite like her. Her shot from about the 18 to 20 is pretty unbelievable.

“I didn’t have to worry [about defending her]. I’m thankful for that.”

Opposing coaches were not as fortunate. Despite routinely being double- and triple-teamed, Stewart humbled defenses with her adept ball handling and keen eye for the goal. In one match against Roaring Fork in April, she found the net five times ” in a 38-minute span, no less.

Stewart, who scored 20 goals during a junior season in which she was a first-team All-Conference and honorable mention All-State selection, was at her best in the postseason. In her final game on home grass, she scored three of Basalt’s four first-half goals en route to a 6-0 opening-round victory against Estes Park.

“I think we needed somebody to step up and get the goals [after Fitzpatrick left],” Stewart said Friday. “I guess that was me.”

How big a contribution did Stewart make in 2009? Ginevra Moore, the player with the team’s second-highest goal title, scored 12 times. Replacing that production will require a collected effort, Eshelman said.

“We’re definitely going to miss that go-to foot of hers,” the coach added.

That foot attracted the attention of Louisiana-Monroe head coach Stacy Lamb during last summer’s Steamboat Soccer Academy in Glenwood Springs. After a visit to the campus in September and a scholarship offer (3/4 athletic and 1/4 academic), she signed a letter of intent in February.

“I’m excited to move on,” Stewart said.

Basalt will move on with a solid core of returning players. Among them is Stenstadvold, a midfielder who scored nine goals and seven assists after returning from an offseason foot injury.

“She definitely controls the movement through the center ” everything goes through her,” Eshelman said. “She really got us going offensively, and was great on defense, too. People don’t see that because she was usually making spin moves and going past them.”

Joining Stenstadvold in the midfield for the next two years will be Dewind, who piled up four goals and two assists this season. The duo helped break a scoreless tie in the Longhorns’ playoff opener; Stenstadvold lofted a well-placed corner into the box and Dewind scored off her stomach in the eighth minute.

Basalt will also lean on King, who scored five goals, picked up six assists and endeared herself to coaches with her work ethic. On defense, the Longhorns will build around sweeper Kading, whom Eshelman calls “the voice of our team, the voice of reason.”

Still, it will be tough filling the void left by players like Stewart and Herreid, Eshelman added.

“She single-handedly saved three goals [in the second round against Manitou Springs]. Three girls had breakaways and she tracked them all down ” she played out of her mind,” Eshelman said of Herreid. “She was our captain, the heart and soul of the team. That will be hard to replace.

“I have a young team now. I think we’ll keep moving forward and learn from those losses. … We’re already excited about next year.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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