Battle-tested Basalt soccer hopes to keep it close vs unknown Aurora West
As one of the lowest seeds and with a record right around .500, the Basalt High School boys soccer team isn’t likely to intimidate anyone. At the same time, the Longhorns have played plenty of stiff competition and hung with the best, so they aren’t entering the Class 3A state tournament with much fear, either.
“If we play our best game we certainly have a decent chance. I’m not that intimidated by anybody based off the fact that we played Delta and Roaring Fork,” BHS coach Brent Hayes said on Wednesday. “When we can put together more than just 20 minutes of good soccer, we do well.”
Basalt (7-6-1 overall) enters the postseason as the No. 29 seed in the 32-team state tournament. At 2 p.m. Friday, BHS will play No. 4 Aurora West College Prep Academy (14-1) in the first round. The game will be played at Aurora Central High School. The winner will play either No. 13 Middle Park or No. 20 Jefferson Academy in the second round on Tuesday.
Aurora West plays out of the 3A Confluence League against teams Basalt doesn’t often see. Their only mutual opponent this season is Strive Prep-Smart Academy, a team that went 7-7-1 overall and made the state tournament as the No. 27 seed. Basalt’s lone tie came against Strive, 2-2 back on Sept. 14, while Aurora West swept Strive in two games by scores of 6-2 and 3-1.
Aurora West’s only loss came in its season opener on Sept. 5, a 4-2 defeat to Class 4A state tournament qualifier Regis Groff.
“It’s hard to really glean any information. Nobody in this league has played them,” Hayes said of the 3A Western Slope League and Aurora West. “Having been up and down all year, we knew we had to beat Palisade to get in, and they responded really well.”
Unlike the Spartans of Aurora, Basalt’s playoff berth came down to its final game. The Longhorns finished the regular season with a 4-2 home win over Palisade on Friday, part of a strong stretch of performances over the past few weeks. Also last week, BHS played to a 2-1 overtime loss to Delta, the tournament’s No. 6 overall seed. Delta hosts Strive Prep in the first round Friday night.
On Oct. 18, Basalt lost 3-2 at Roaring Fork. The Rams, who won the 3A WSL, are the state tournament’s No. 5 seed and a returning state semifinalist from 2018. Roaring Fork (11-2-1) hosts No. 28 Peak to Peak (6-9) at 4 p.m. Friday in the first round at Carbondale Middle School.
Basalt’s biggest recent win came 1-0 over Crested Butte on Oct. 5. The Titans are the defending 2A state champions and the No. 2 seed in this year’s 2A state tournament. Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School is the No. 1 seed in 2A.
Of Basalt’s 14 games this season, seven were decided by only a single goal, not to mention the draw, and four went to overtime. Of Aurora West’s 15 games, only three were decided by a goal, while many were blowouts. This can be viewed numerous ways, but Hayes is hoping this means if Basalt can keep it close Friday, it should have the late-game advantage.
“They haven’t had close-game stress and remaining calm if you go down, those types of things,” Hayes said of Aurora West. “With the close game against Fork that I really feel could have gone either way, a close game against Delta that could have gone either way, I think that’s given us some confidence that we can play with anybody. I think it’s helpful that we’ve played in lots of close games.”
Aurora West was only the No. 28 seed in the 2018 state tournament, losing 3-0 to No. 5 Salida in the first round. As the No. 10 seed in 2017, the Spartans were knocked off by No. 23 Roaring Fork in the first round, 2-0. They last made it past the first round in 2016 when they were the No. 15 seed, beating No. 18 The Academy in the opening round before losing to No. 2 KIPP Denver Collegiate in the Round of 16.
Basalt was the No. 26 seed in 2018, losing 2-0 to No. 7 Faith Christian in the first round. The Longhorns didn’t make the state tournament in 2017 after having made the second round in 2016 as the No. 11 seed. Basalt last made the state quarterfinals in 2011 when it was the No. 6 seed, losing to No. 3 Kent Denver.
“Hopefully all these seniors can end on a good note. At least win one game,” Hayes said. “Our first goal was to make it to state. Then it was hopefully win league and have a home game. We got our original one, which was state. You never know what is going to happen in the tournament.”
Also in the state tournamenet out of the 3A WSL, No. 18 Vail Mountain plays No. 15 Lamar in the first round, while No. 30 Coal Ridge takes on No. 3 Atlas Prep. Salida is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by No. 2 Kent Denver. Aspen, which finished the season 2-13 overall, did not make the state tournament.
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The winter prep season is upon us. But before we look toward this year, let’s flashback to last winter and recap what happened between the Aspen and Basalt teams. The 2020-21 winter seasons were overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, with shortened schedules and cancellations.