Longhorns bull-y Skiers in Slope showdown
The Basalt Longhorns may not need it, but sure will take any help they can get as they roll toward another boys soccer conference crown.The Longhorns (6-2, 4-0) capitalized on two first-half Aspen mistakes and clamped down on defense late Tuesday to pull out the 2-0 home win and strengthen their position atop the Western Slope 3A standings.Basalt is 8-0-1 against Aspen since 2001 and has finished first in the Slope standings four consecutive times. In 2002, the two teams played to a scoreless tie. “We kept pressuring their defense, which created shots,” Longhorns coach Erik Streff said. “It’s always disappointing when good chances at the net don’t get put away, but our guys put forth a great effort.”An attacking Basalt offense created multiple scoring opportunities early in the first. Senior Forward Alex Giglio pushed across the first goal of the game when he reeled off a strong shot from the right side. Aspen goalkeeper Andy Conarroe got both gloves on the ball, but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
Senior forwards David Rosales and Felipe Sanchez, who returned to action after sitting out Saturday with back pain, continuously applied pressure on Conarroe and the Aspen defense. Shots went up from both the right and left on the Skiers end as Basalt dominated time of possession. Basalt took advantage of a sleepwalking Skiers defense one more time midway through the second. As was often the case, Conarroe had to leave the post to corral a loose ball outside the box. Rosales controlled the attempted clear, uncorking a beautiful shot from just inside midfield that sailed over Conarroe’s head, but under the crossbar, giving Basalt a 2-0 lead.Had it not been for multiple near misses, the Longhorns could have given themselves substantial breathing room. Conarroe cleanly handled Giglio’s breakaway attempt for a goal early in the first. The goalie fearlessly left the net after Basalt’s first goal, beat an opponent to the ball inside the box and handled a strong header from Rosales. Streff and the Longhorns watched shot after shot slide wide and ring off the goalposts. Offsides penalties also negated a handful of Basalt scoring chances as the speedy, opportunistic Longhorns forwards could not stop themselves from gliding behind the Skiers defense.”We made two bad mistakes,” Aspen head coach Junior Sutherland said. “I think we had a little too much respect for them in the first half and they came in more physical than we were. We got down by two and that point, we were chasing the game.”
Aspen (4-2, 1-1), which put forth a strong display of emotion and will in an impressive win Saturday against 5A Grand Junction Central, was reactionary early, letting Basalt dictate the pace of the game. Sutherland and assistant coach John Gillies pleaded with the Skiers to keep from clearing the ball in an attempt to create scoring opportunities. Basalt goalkeeper Jamie Wirkler, however, was the lone man on the Longhorns’ side of the field for much of the first.The Skiers sensed the urgency and came out with more physical play in the second. They just could not catch up.”The game got physical both ways, and it was good to see,” Streff said. “We had a lot of players that stepped up.”While the Basalt offense has garnered much of the praise and respect so far this season, averaging close to four goals a game, it was the Longhorns defense that left the most indelible mark Tuesday. Aspen failed to score for just the second time this season – defending state champion Salida blanked the Skiers to open the season.
Senior defenseman Dennis Morgan blanketed Aspen’s Stephen Buzbee. The Longhorns frustrated the Skiers, allowing no open passing lanes, and contesting all crossing shots. Despite their best efforts, the Skiers couldn’t get close to the Basalt net as time ran out.”I didn’t want him to score or give away any opportunities,” Morgan said. “We stepped it up in the second half.”While Aspen struggled to score, senior goalie Fred Bernard, who entered the game at the half, made sure the deficit did not increase. Bernard smothered goal kicks and was sure-handed in traffic. He opened the half with an amazing save, diving horizontally to control a shot off the powerful foot of Brett Boyle. “We went in scared of ’em,” Gillies said. “These guys aren’t gonna let this happen again. They have too much pride. It’s good to see that they’re upset and showing some passion.” The two teams finish the regular season Oct. 18 with a rematch in Aspen.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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