Freshmen help lead Basalt girls soccer back into league, playoff contention
Senior Callie Card, the reigning player of the year in the Western Slope League, likely felt pretty secure in her starting spot on the Basalt High School girls soccer team entering the season. So when a talented group of freshmen came aboard and proved they had the moxie to compete with the upperclassmen, Card was able to welcome them with open arms.
“They’ve brought some major talent to the team and they’ve also brought some competition to the team we haven’t had in the past. I think it’s pushed all of us to work harder,” Card said. “We are a new team, but we spend so much time together and I think we are really working on making it a good program all around.”
The mixture of youth and seniority this spring has resulted in a strong Longhorn team, which won its seventh consecutive game Saturday with a 6-2 victory over Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Basalt.
BHS led 5-0 at halftime Saturday behind goals from five different players, including freshmen Taylor Glen and Caitlin Coon. Sasha Brucker, another freshman, scored the lone goal for the Longhorns in the second half.
“I was impressed with my girls in the first half. It’s been a long week for us with a couple of big games, and we got out of there the way we wanted to,” fourth-year Basalt coach Andrew Huntsman said. “Our group of girls is so flexible, diverse, adaptive, and we’ve had goals from so many different girls all season that it really is a challenge to mark all those girls. It’s a nice luxury to have and it’s only from their hard work they do that.”
Through nine games, Card and Glen are tied with a team-high 11 goals on the season. Emma Day, yet another freshman, is third on the team with seven goals and Coon is fourth with six.
With this influx of goal-savvy freshmen, the Longhorns are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The team finished 9-6 last season, its most wins since going 11-3-3 in 2010, but just missed out on a spot in the state tournament.
“I’ve watched this program develop since sophomore year and we’ve gone so far from a losing season to now. I really hope that can fuel us even more,” Card said. “The younger players, they’ve developed a lot already. We let down a little in the second half, but we kept it together and I was really proud of my team today for finishing it strong and keeping it going.”
The Longhorns opened the season with back-to-back losses. The first came 4-1 at SkyView Academy, currently 6-2 and No. 19 in Class 3A in RPI, the second a 4-0 loss to visiting Fruita Monument, which is 6-2 and had the fifth-best RPI in Class 5A as of Saturday afternoon.
Since then, Basalt has won seven straight — wins coming against Vail Christian, Roaring Fork, Moffat County, Rangely, Coal Ridge, Grand Valley and CRMS — to reach 7-2 overall and 4-0 in league play. As of Saturday afternoon, BHS was ranked No. 18 in RPI in 3A.
“We learned from those first two losses and I think that shows,” Huntsman said. “That’s part of our goal is to maintain this focus and high-level of play and continue to do what we are doing.”
There still is a lot standing between Basalt and a league title. The team plays at a struggling Delta squad Tuesday before hosting Grand Valley in a rematch on Thursday. BHS plays at Moffat County on April 25 before hosting resurgent Aspen on April 27.
The Skiers defeated Delta 3-1 Saturday in Aspen to improve to 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the league. AHS has won three of its last four games after a three-game slide earlier in the season.
“We have a really tough schedule ahead of us. We just have to do what we can do, control our own destiny and win the games we can,” Huntsman said. “The group of girls that were here last year kind of have a bit of a hole they want to fill by getting to the playoffs.”
Basalt finishes out the season with home games against Roaring Fork (April 29) and Vail Mountain (May 2). BHS and VMS are the only remaining undefeated teams in league play as of Saturday. Coal Ridge sits in third with the lone league loss to Basalt.
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The Aspen High School girls soccer team looks a lot different from the last time it played, with many new players and a new coaching staff. But winning has become part of the culture, and it’s so far, so good for the Skiers this spring.