Aspen girls soccer falls as Dunn’s OT goal gives Titans first win of the season
NEW CASTLE — Through the first five games of the 2018 season, bounces haven’t gone the Coal Ridge High School girls soccer team’s way.
Sitting at 0-4-1 coming into Friday’s league game against Aspen High School at “The Pasture,” the tide turned for the Titans late, as a friendly bounce to senior midfielder Sam Dunn allowed the standout Titan to slip a shot past the sprawling Aspen goalkeeper just 1:21 into overtime, giving Coal Ridge a hard-fought 3-2 win in overtime.
The goal came off of a controversial play, as an Aspen defender appeared to try and pass the ball into the middle of the box, but the ball bounced off of a Coal Ridge player’s leg, right to Dunn in the box. The Aspen coaching staff contended that Dunn was offsides, but to no avail. Fortunately, a bounce, call, and decision went Coal Ridge’s way in the end.
“We’ve been on the other side of those calls before,” Coal Ridge coach Damon Martinez said. “We’ve been the benefactor, and the victim in those situations. I know how that coach feels right now; we’ve been there. But it feels great to get this one. We’ve played well all year but haven’t been able to get one. This one is very good for the team, because we’re very short-handed.”
Coming into the game without two key players, Coal Ridge came out blazing early in the first half against the Skiers, who came into Friday’s game as the top team in the 3A Western Slope League standings.
Needing a win to stay in contention, the Titans applied pressure early, as Dunn nearly started the scoring for Coal Ridge just two minutes into the game. Freshman forward Libby Tharp played a great through-ball up the field to Dunn, who beat an Aspen defender with a slick touch, giving her a free run in on goal.
Dunn fired a shot from outside the box, trying to catch the Skiers’ goalkeeper off her line, but Aspen sophomore Ella Trane made the save, keeping it tied at 0-0.
The Titans didn’t let up, though, as Dunn made a great cross into the box to senior Emily Wright following a throw-in by junior Alyssa Wenzel on the right sideline. Corralling the ball in the box with one touch, Wright fired a shot high into the upper right corner of the net just 7:47 into the game, giving the Titans an early 1-0 lead.
Following Wright’s goal, things took a turn in favor of the Skiers, as Aspen controlled possession for the remainder of the first half. Despite struggling to get the ball out of their own end, Wright nearly gave the Titans a 2-0 lead with 16:34 left in the half. The senior made a great run down the left wing and fired a left-footed shot from about 25 yards out that clanged off the crossbar, narrowly missing the back of the net.
Dodging a bullet, Aspen kept up the pressure and finally broke through right before the half, as freshman Kelley Francis snuck behind the Coal Ridge defense for a run down the left sideline. After cutting into the box, Francis tapped a slow roller past Coal Ridge sophomore goalkeeper Lyanna Nevarez — playing in her first career game in goal — to tie the game up at 1-1.
Coming out of the half tied at 1-1, the Titans looked to regroup, but the Skiers continued to control possession in the attacking third of the field, forcing Nevarez to make a number of saves. With the amount of pressure the Skiers applied, it was only a matter of time before they broke through once again, this time just three minutes into the second half as sophomore Payton Curley found junior Emily Brenniger in the box.
Brenniger fired a shot on net that was deflected by Coal Ridge senior defender Paige Harlow, allowing the ball to trickle through Nevarez’s legs and giving the Skiers at 2-1 lead early in the second half.
Trailing by a goal at home, the Titans flipped a switch and started to put some good runs together on the Aspen net. Turning to a short bench, Martinez inserted junior Veronica Gonzalez at forward to give the Titans some fresh legs up front. The move paid off quickly, as Gonzalez found the back of the net with just under 14 minutes to go in the game, knotting it up at 2-2.
Gonzalez’s goal was set up by an Aspen turnover that senior Santana Martinez pounced on. Martinez passed the ball up to Tharp, who passed it back to sophomore Marin Hough, who then threaded a through-ball to Gonzalez, who slipped a shot under Trane’s sprawling arm, igniting the Titan bench.
“That was just great to see for Veronica,” Damon Martinez said following the game. “She’s one of those girls that just works so hard, and we were all just so happy for her. We were really short-handed today, so it was great to see her step up for us there and give up some good minutes, capped off by a goal.”
After Gonzalez tied the game for the Titans, Coal Ridge continued to push late in the second half, looking for the game-winning goal in regulation, but tired legs and a short bench couldn’t get the Titans that final goal, sending the two teams into overtime.
Fortunately for the Titans, overtime was very quick, thanks to Dunn’s heroics.
Following Dunn’s goal that appeared offsides, at least at first glance, all three referees discussed the play and awarded the Titans the goal, giving Coal Ridge their first win of the season, leaving Aspen’s coaching staff in disbelief.
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The Skiers’ latest victim was Vail Mountain School on Monday, a 67-47 non-league rout inside the AHS gymnasium. It was the second time the teams had played in less than a week, as AHS also won in Vail last Tuesday, 40-28. Aspen is in position to possibly host a playoff game next week.