‘Horns hope to go from fifth to first
Aspen, CO Colorado
Basalt clinched an 11th consecutive 3A Western Slope title. Now, it sets it sights on that elusive state crown.
After a season in which they went 13-2, lost just once after March 22 and saw their state ranking climb to No. 1 on multiple occasions, the Longhorns were given the fifth seed in this year’s 3A state tournament field, which was unveiled Sunday. They’ll host No. 12 Classical Academy at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s tight quarterfinal.
Metro champion Faith Christian garnered the tournament’s top seed.
“I thought we did enough to get a three or a four,” Basalt coach Chris Woods said Sunday afternoon. “But, when you look at the teams in front of us ” Faith Christian, Alexander Dawson second, St. Mary’s, which is a strong team, and Peak to Peak, who was second in the Metro ” fifth is still a pretty good spot to be.
“It’s playoff time. There aren’t any easy games anymore.”
That is certain. Looming on the Longhorns’ half of the bracket is the top-seeded Eagles, whom Basalt would meet in May 15’s semifinals at Englewood’s Pirate Field should both win their first two games. With a win Tuesday, Basalt would likely travel to No. 4 Peak to Peak on Saturday.
The Longhorns know better than to look ahead. Despite controlling the tempo last season against Classical Academy, then second-seeded Basalt needed a goal off a corner kick in the 79th minute to escape with a 1-0 win.
“If I remember correctly, we dominated that game. We just couldn’t score,” Woods said. Basalt outshot the Titans, 28-7, and had multiple shots hit the post. “It’s going to come down to getting quality opportunities and if we can hit the back of the net.”
Success against the Titans this time will likely hinge on Basalt’s ability to slow Shea Haycock, who scored 29 goals during the regular season. No other Classical Academy player had more than 16.
The Titans will have more than just one Longhorn to worry about, however. Reigning Slope player of the year Kat Fitzpatrick and junior forward Melissa Stewart formed one of the state’s most prolific scoring tandems during the regular season, combining for 43 goals and 26 assists.
“If we have our two forwards in the fire, we’ll have a good chance,” Woods said.
Basalt will be without its third-leading scoring, midfielder Annette Stenstadvold. The freshman roller her ankle against Vail Mountain School on April 26 and was out of the lineup for the final two games. The Longhorns wound up falling to the Gore Rangers, 5-4 ” their only loss in league play.
“We’ll see how Nettie is [Monday], but it’s more likely she will not play Tuesday,” Woods said. “She’s a big, important part of the midfield, but the girls at the moment are really stepping up. Everyone rallies around each other.”
In Stenstadvold’s absence, Basalt rebounded with a lopsided 7-0 win over Rangely, then avenged their loss to VMS with a 4-0 victory in East Vail.
After a season in which the Longhorns were rarely tested ” they outscored opponents, 79-13 ” Woods said the loss to the Gore Rangers should help his squad in the postseason.
“Had we beaten Vail, 4-0, that Saturday, those games against Rangely Monday and then Vail Tuesday would’ve been ho hum, boring games,” he added. “That Tuesday, the girls were treating it like a playoff game. That was a good way to see how we would face a little adversity. … [The loss] was definitely a good thing. It helped refire their engines.”
The team’s experience will also be beneficial, Woods said. The senior class has experienced three disappointing playoff exits, and many have come up agonizingly short in other sports as well. In 2005, the then No. 4 Longhorns lost to 12th-seeded Denver Christian in the quarterfinals. One year later, Colorado Academy ousted them in overtime in the opening round.
And last year, the team exited in the semifinals after a 3-0 loss to St. Mary’s, a team Basalt had beaten earlier in the season.
Woods said he thinks his team is ready to take that next step.
First comes Tuesday.
“It’s playoff time, there’s no time for pep talks,” he added. “These girls have been together for so long. They know what to do.”
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