Chris Ellis replaces longtime coach John Gillies to lead AHS girls soccer team

The foundation is more than in place for Chris Ellis, the new head coach for the Aspen High School girls soccer team. He sees his job as mostly finishing what others have started.

“We have a great core group of players that are very motivated to continue this run of success,” Ellis said. “It’s great to be part of that success and hopefully they can continue with that. I’m here to try and help them achieve their full potential. And especially to continue building a girls soccer program that inspires younger players to want to become part of our soccer environment here in the valley.”

Ellis, 59, is a native of England who has been in the United States for nearly three decades. He’s coached soccer in the Roaring Fork Valley in numerous roles, including working with both the boys and girls programs at AHS and through the Aspen United Soccer Club.

He’s replacing John Gillies — a fellow Englishman — who recently resigned after a roughly two-decade stint coaching soccer at Aspen High School.

“Coming from England, most of us have played soccer all our life and I’m no exception to that. Played it, lived it, watched it forever,” Ellis said. “I’m already in the program, you might say, with the school, so it was a natural fit for me to put myself forward. It’s an exciting time and I’m looking forward to it.”

It was somewhat of a last-second transition for the program with official practices to get underway March 2. Ellis has already started indoor conditioning and skills practices with some of the players. Teams can start playing games March 12.

The AHS girls soccer program has been strong in recent years under Gillies, including a 14-4 campaign in 2018 that included a surprise run to the Class 3A state semifinals as the No. 13 seed. Aspen lost to No. 1 seed and eventual state champion Jefferson Academy, 1-0, to close out their season.

The Skiers went 13-3-1 in 2019, losing as the No. 6 seed to that same Jefferson Academy team in the state quarterfinals, 5-0. The Jaguars, seeded No. 3, lost to No. 1 Colorado Academy in the state championship game last spring.

Among the players expected back for Aspen this spring are junior forward Kelley Francis, who set the program’s single-season scoring mark each of the past two seasons, and sophomore forward Jenny Ellis, Chris Ellis’ daughter, who started on varsity as a freshman.

“Obviously individual players have individual skills, but the ultimate aim here is for the team to perform to its collective potential,” Chris Ellis said. “There are a lot of good players on the team. There is a core group there that is very motivated and quite talented and it’s going to be a lot of fun to see how far we can go.”