‘Horns headed to Denver
BASALT Basalt soccer player Kyle Wood was sidelined with a broken right leg during last year’s playoff run. In Wednesday’s opening-round game against No. 10 Peak to Peak, the junior helped Basalt clinch a fourth straight quarterfinal berth. Wood squared the match with a first-half goal, then assisted on Sal Cruz’s game-winner in the 78th minute. The No. 7 Longhorns outlasted the Pumas, 2-1. “It was so hard to watch last year, especially after that loss,” Wood said. In 2006, then No. 2 Classical Academy ousted the Longhorns with a 1-0 quarterfinal victory. “It’s been great to come back and get the team this far.”
The dramatic victory sets up a rematch with No. 2 Kent Denver on Saturday. The Sun Devils, the 3A Metro champions who blanked No. 15 Colorado Springs School, 3-0, later Wednesday, beat Basalt, 4-0, in the season opener.The Longhorns (13-3) had to overcome a sluggish start and a early deficit Wednesday, however, to ensure that rematch. The Pumas dictated the pace, pushing the ball deep in Basalt territory for much of the first half. The pressure yielded a goal on a penalty kick in the ninth minute. A Peak to Peak player sidestepped one defender and found an opening inside the box; Longhorns defender Ryan Mylott aggressively slid to disrupt the play and was whistled for a penalty. Pumas defender Greg Borchers lined up the ensuing kick and beat goalkeeper Marshall Cleveland with a strike to the bottom left corner. The Longhorns offense was uncharacteristically stagnant. Coach John McDermott turned to Wood for a spark off the bench.
As Wood prepared to enter the game, McDermott called out to him to be aggressive and score. Wood did just that a mere four minutes later. “Sal had a cross set up, and he called back post – it came to my head, and I did what I’ve done in practice,” Wood said. “That calmed us down. We definitely were too hyped and weren’t thinking.”Wood returned the favor during a second half in which Basalt dominated possession and flooded the Pumas zone with runs up both sidelines.
“We came back from one goal down – that’s the sign of a good team,” McDermott said. “It was a hard physical game. Once the momentum shifts, you can feel it going.”Wood pushed the ball up the left side as Cruz faded toward the 18 with two minutes remaining in a tie game. Seconds later, the crowd and the Basalt bench erupted.”I saw the cross coming in, and I saw some empty space,” Cruz said. “I saw the net, I saw the ball, and there it was. What a beautiful feeling.” The discouraging late-game defeat is nothing new for the Pumas, coach Peter Chandler said. Against the 3A Metro’s top teams – Colorado Academy, Kent Denver and Denver Christian – Peak to Peak dropped two by one goal each and another on a late own goal.
“Playing the whole 40 or 80 minutes has been a challenge, but give credit to Basalt. I didn’t think they’d be this strong or fast,” Chandler said. “After we scored, they really took control. We like to play a skill game, but you have to go win the ball and be first to the ball. We weren’t in most cases. “They deserved to win. They were charged. They were what we needed to be.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Aspen High School girls soccer coach Chris Ellis could have told you the team would be facing a strong opponent in the first round of the state playoffs well before the bracket was released on Sunday. With only a 16-team field this spring, any squad that found itself among those few had to be solid.