Gentlemen of Aspen heading to Division I final four |

Gentlemen of Aspen heading to Division I final four

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Gentlemen of Aspen head coach Fred Waititi was eager to see how his team stacked up against some of the nation’s best sides this past weekend in Austin, Texas.

The verdict? The Gents can hold their own.

Aspen, which headed into Saturday’s Division I playoffs as the 14th-seeded team out of 16, pulled off close wins over clubs from Provo (Utah) and Los Angeles to advance to the final four. The Gents will vie for an eighth Division I crown May 30 and 31 in Glendale.

“It was hard to gauge where we were at compared to other areas in the country. … We really didn’t know what we were in for,” Waititi said Thursday. “It was pretty satisfying. At least it shows we’re there or there abouts as far as the other top teams in the country.”

Aspen, which knocked off the Austin Huns in first-round playoff action May 2 at Rio Grande Park, took on Provo on Saturday. The two sides were locked in a scoreless game 15 minutes into the second half.

The Gents broke the game open from there, however, picking up two tries to vault in front. They cruised to a 25-5 win.

“Both teams were attacking each other, but no one was making headway,” Waititi said. “We finally got an opportunity to score from a long way out and we took it. … Our defense was pretty key all weekend. It’s something that we’ve really worked on.”

That defense was on display Sunday against Los Angeles, when the Gents blanked their opponent during the first half and took a 10-0 lead into intermission. Undermanned Aspen, which fielded 22 players instead of the 28 allowed because of various injuries and scheduling conflicts, hung on for a 15-7 win.

“Everyone had to play both days, which was tough,” Waititi said of his team, which includes four players from Steamboat Springs, four from Vail and one fro Telluride, among others. “We were pretty heavily outweighed size-wise, but we couldn’t fault our guys for commitment.

“You know, some of our unsung heroes really got the chance to shine ” and they did. … The teams we play against have some quite well-known players around the country. We have a pack of scrappers.”

Waititi expects the Gents to be at full strength May 30 when they take on Atlanta in the national semifinals. Experience could also be a factor. While only two players on the roster have previous Division I championship experience, there are 10 members of last year’s National Sevens title squad.

“If we’re able to come up with the same level [of commitment] as what we did last weekend, we might be able to surprise someone,” Waititi said. “I guess we’re capable of going through this … We’ll get a chance.”

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