Boys soccer: Aspen edges Basalt in season opener
The Aspen Times
BASALT — Round 1 goes to the Aspen Skiers — 2-1.
The Aspen High School boys soccer team kicked off the new season Tuesday afternoon at Basalt, with the Longhorns also making their season debut.
Aspen’s Nikko Wehse tapped home the tie-breaking goal after taking a through ball from teammate Erik Gagen with 12 minutes to play in the prep opener.
The score was the lone goal in an otherwise scoreless second half that featured entertaining, end-to-end action and a barrage of shots on goal — for both teams.
The Skiers scored first in the nononference match when Jorge Esparza found the back of the net after taking a pass from Wehse midway through the first half.
The Longhorns, who had controlled possession and shots in the first half, answered minutes later.
Elmer Bonilla’s pass went to Pedro Rivera, who knocked home the tying goal for Basalt.
Goalies Pablo Rivera for Basalt and Jake Bassi for Aspen stonewalled their respective opponents, with only Wehse’s game-winning goal in the second 40 minutes of play.
“Basalt came out and put us under a lot of pressure,” Aspen head coach Dave Francis said. “Our guys were pretty nervous out there at first. There were some mistakes creeping in”
But the team regrouped at halftime, he said.
“In the second half, we settled down. We showed much better control,” Francis said. “We got our forward line to engage with our midfield, and we could move up and down the field.”
The efficiency, he said, helped generate a dozen shots in the second half.
“That was a great finish by Nikko for the second goal. But it was still close there at the end,” Francis said. “It took a couple of great saves from our goalie Jake.”
He also credited the Basalt keeper for an outstanding game.
“He (Pablo Rivera) made some great saves for them,” Francis said.
The Longhorns’ keeper also drew the praise of Basalt head coach Brent Hayes.
“Both keepers really,” Hayes said. “Both keepers were absolutely outstanding. There were probably nine highlight-reel saves by the keepers in this game.”
Hayes said he was pleased with the Longhorns’ overall play, particularly with a lot of new faces along the defensive back line.
“Our lack of depth and fitness hurt us a little bit,” Hayes said. “But I’m proud of our team. We were right there. We played against a really good team, and we were right there.”
He said the game was a solid, physical opener.
“It was a great game,” he said. “They had momentum; we had it; then they had it.”
The Longhorns next will head to the Sun Devil Shootout at Kent Denver for matches Friday and Saturday.
Aspen will play at Roaring Fork next Tuesday.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle. It’s Basalt,” Aspen coach Francis said. “That’s why we love these games.”
The Longhorns and Skiers will play again on Oct. 3 in Aspen in the conference match.
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