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Hearts broken in Basalt

Tim Mutrie
Basalt freshman Jessi Graf rips a shot through three Denver Christian defenders during the second half Monday at the BHS field. With Basalt trailing 3-2 at the time, Graf's blast would have tied the game; instead, it hit the crossbar and deflected over. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.
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The tears flowed easily because the sorrow cut deep.After filling their sails with 2-nil lead in the opening eight minutes of the Class 3A state quarterfinals, the Basalt High girls soccer teams’ state dreams were dashed when Denver Christian lashed back with four unanswered goals Monday at the BHS field.Like any good drama, this one was complete with one of those quintessential “what if” moments for Basalt, when, with Basalt trailing 3-2 in the second half, freshman phenom Jessi Graf ripped a missile off the crossbar. Two or three inches south, perhaps, and the game would have been tied up. Instead, Denver Christian punched in another goal in the 80th and final minute to nail down a 4-2 victory and advance to the final four.So nothing could deaden the sting when the wound was fresh yesterday afternoon.

“The girls left everything out there, especially their heart,” said Basalt coach Chris Woods. “I’m very proud of them.””We had a real intensity throughout and I couldn’t ask more from these girls,” said Basalt midfielder Sofie Stenstadvold, one of three seniors on the roster. “I’m just honored to have played with ’em for so long.”Basalt, the No. 4 seed in the 16-team tournament, finishes its season at 13-4-0 overall. No. 12 Denver Christian (12-1-4), the team that beat Basalt 1-nil last year in the semifinals en route to the state title, will face the winner of No. 1 Kent Denver and No. 9 Fountain Valley on Friday in Golden.”We shocked ’em early,” said Woods, “but we know they’re a quality team and we knew they were going to come back.”Basalt went up 1-0 in the fifth minute when Graf’s low corner kick was deflected directly back at her in the corner. She took a moment to settle the ball, then sent another cross into the box – this time with good loft – and Stenstadvold headed it out of the air into the net.

Three minutes later, sophomore striker Katie Staerkel led a break into the Denver Christian zone, then backtracked to midfield as defenders swarmed her. She dished over to an open Stenstadvold at the top of the box, who spun and hit junior forward Maddie Hoffman streaking in on the net. Hoffman one-timed a right-footed blast into the top netting of the goal to put Basalt up 2-0.”OK, OK, let’s not get too excited here,” coach Woods said from the sidelines. “We’ve got to keep doing the simple stuff.”Basalt managed to squander Denver Christian’s possessions until the 28th minute when Denver Christian senior Alexis Kirkman deflected a nice cross into the Basalt net. It appeared she caught it off a thigh. To cap off an outburst to match Basalt’s, four minutes later in the 32nd, senior Angela Ramlet booted in a rebound that escaped the outstretched mitts of Basalt junior goalie Darbi Scherer, evening it up at 2-2.Denver Christian took the upper hand early in the second half, in the 43rd, when senior forward Michelle Koele crashed onto another cross and one-timed it in for a score: 3-2 Denver Christian. By that point, BHS goalie Scherer had left the game with symptoms of a concussion after at least two collisions with Denver Christian forwards. Freshman Dayne Toney, who split time with Scherer during the regular season, had taken over in the net. Still, there was little either of them could’ve done on the scoring sequence.Basalt fought and scraped and bumped and banged to create chances, looking desperate and inspired and hungry at all the same time. And, naturally, good chances came. But none better than Graf’s blast in the 52nd minute that pinged off and over the crossbar.

Denver Christian showed poise in disrupting Basalt’s ball down the stretch, taking few chances of their own while playing conservatively to deny Basalt good looks.”A couple of lucky goals – that’s soccer,” said Woods, his voice crackling and eyes shielded by dark glasses. “But I think we proved a lot of people wrong. It’s a tough one to swallow, but I can’t tell you how proud I am of these 23 girls.””And who knows, we’re down 3-2 and we hit the crossbar,” Woods continued. “Who knows.””We really, really wanted it,” said Staerkel, who led Class 3A in scoring over the regular season with 30 goals. “And I’m really, really bummed out. We thought it was happening for us.”At one point, Basalt’s lineup featured five freshmen (midfielders Graf and Alia Munger, goalie Toney, defender Amy Brumet and forward Katherine Fitzpatrick) and three sophomores (Staerkel and defenders Emily Birk and Bailey Holmes). Stenstadvold, a senior midfielder, and senior sweeper Deanna Spracher never left the field; senior midfielder Kari Heuer and junior Hoffman nearly so.

Denver Christian, in contrast, featured eight senior starters, “seven or eight” of whom started on last year’s state championship team, according to Denver Christian coach Brad Homan.”Basalt beat us in the midfield consistently in the first half,” said Homan, “and they played disciplined the whole game. But there’s a lot of experience on this team and I think they showed that today when we were down two goals. They were calm.””But what Basalt has done is tremendous,” continued Homan, who credited Woods and former Basalt varsity coach and current JV coach Heather Walker for the success of the program. “They are and should be considered one of the elite 3A teams in the state. They’ve had some disappointments, but they’ve got a very bright future, too.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com


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