End of the line for Aspen girls
LAFAYETTE – All good things come to an end. For the six seniors on Aspen’s varsity girls soccer team, the best season in four years came to a disappointing close Saturday at Alexander Dawson.A day after downvalley rival Basalt was abruptly eliminated from the playoffs in overtime by the Colorado Academy Mustangs, Aspen fell, 2-0, to another Front Range team with the same mascot. “It’s disappointing,” Skiers senior defender Elyse Boelens said. “It’s the best Aspen soccer has done since 2002, but it’s hard for it to end this way.””There’s a lot to be proud of,” Aspen coach Jon Gillies said. “They achieved so much. They fulfilled their ambitions.” The Skiers allowed a goal from Mustangs freshman forward Alyssa Beck in the second minute and never fully recovered. Beck – the fastest Mustang on the field – also scored in the 28th minute when she tracked down an overhead ball in the box and gently tapped it behind Aspen senior goalie Carly Magill. While Beck’s foot speed surpassed anything Aspen had seen this season, she wasn’t the only Mustang who could gallop. Aspen’s defenders struggled to keep pace with the opposition’s nimble front line in the first half, which repeatedly left Magill as the last line of defense. Meanwhile, Aspen’s forwards had a handful of runs on goal but didn’t actually start getting off clean shots until late in the first half, after Dawson had jumped out to its commanding lead.Things only got worse for the Skiers. During a frantic sequence in front of the Dawson net in the 34th minute, sophomore striker Julia Hassall took a tumble and injured her wrist. Two minutes later, senior striker Katrina DeVore went down with a knee injury. Hassall left the field at halftime to head to a nearby hospital for X-rays while DeVore remained on the bench for the remainder of the match.”We looked tired in places, and they passed the ball around well,” Gillies said. “They got that early goal, and that caused us to panic. We spent most of the first half winning the ball and then giving it straight back to them. We kind of lost our composure.”The second half was a different story. Dawson head coach Melissa Barker employed a defensive ball-control strategy that cut down on her team’s scoring chances, and the Skiers retained possession on the Mustangs’ side of the field for the majority of the final 40 minutes. Dawson kept trying to catch the Skiers out of position on long overhead passes, but Mustangs players were whistled for seven off-sides penalties.Despite a number of good scoring opportunities, Aspen was unable to punch in a goal.”We had so many shots in the second half, and the ball was in front of their goal for 75 percent of the time, but the shots weren’t good enough,” senior Emily Hassall said.”They just had a really good defense,” added Magill, who switched from goalie to forward for the final 10 minutes. “They were really fast and aggressive.” Barker used to work with Gillies during a coaching stint with Aspen United Soccer, and she had actually worked with a few of Aspen’s starters when they were younger.She said she knew the 10th-seeded Skiers would pose a test for her team when she read about Aspen’s 3-1 win against Basalt in April. “They’re a strong team and they always play hard,” she said. “I think we happened to be on our game a little bit more than they were today. I definitely saw some of their girls get frustrated with one another in the first half after we scored. In the second half, it was a pretty even game. We kind of let down a little bit.”Gillies noted that Aspen’s weak conference schedule didn’t help when it came time to play a strong team from the Front Range in a single-elimination playoff game.The Mustangs (12-3) also didn’t face much competition en route to the league title in the 3A Mile High, but they played the top three seeds from the state’s best conference – the 3A Metro – in nonconference matches. The Mustangs lost all three games by a combined score of 21-1 but gained valuable experience, Gillies said.”They haven’t had much opposition, but they’ve had the benefit of playing some Metro teams,” he said. “Whether they got beat or not, it doesn’t matter – they still played them. We’ve had Basalt and Colorado Springs Christian, and that’s it.”Aspen finished its season with a record of 14-2, which includes an unblemished home record. Nate Peterson’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
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When mountain culture enthusiasts and athletes descend on Vail for the 20th annual Mountain Games from June 7-12, they will carry on a tradition that dates back to the 1970s in Eagle County and was once deemed illegal.