Longhorns exit in Englewood
ENGLEWOOD – On a neutral field, Basalt’s explosive offense was finally neutralized.No. 3 St. Mary’s put the brakes on the second-seeded Longhorns’ run at a 3A soccer championship Thursday night with a 3-0 win in the state semifinals in Englewood.The Pirates avenged a 1-0 loss March 23 at Basalt, and handed the Longhorns just their second loss in 18 games.Pirates junior forward Julia Saenz connected on a cross from Rachel Niles in the second minute, and later added her school-record 20th goal in the 74th minute.Junior midfielder Samantha Cardenas scored the other goal off a long free kick in the 54th minute.While St. Mary’s capitalized on its scoring chances, Basalt’s big three of Katie Staerkel, Kat Fitzpatrick and Melissa Stewart had an off night.Basalt’s best chance at a goal came in the 24th minute when Fitzpatrick drove to within 10 yards of the St. Mary’s net, only to fire into the hands of goalie Katie Loof.”They got an early goal two minutes in and we had a breakaway 10 minutes after that and we missed that, and I think that set the tone for the rest of the game,” Basalt coach Chris Woods said. “We tried hard, but it just wasn’t our day. It’s really disappointing to not have your best game when you get to the final four, but we made it this far.”While the site was neutral, St. Mary’s arguably had an advantage on the turf – similar to the surface the Pirates play on in Colorado Springs, Saenz said. She also mentioned that the earlier 1-0 loss to the Longhorns came after a four-hour bus ride – whereas Thursday it was the Longhorns who had the longest trip to Englewood among the final four.”Both teams hadn’t played each other for a long time, and [the first game] was kind of earlier in the season,” she said. “We claim we had to sit on the bus for quite a few hours driving down there and we had to adjust to the field.”
Saenz’s first goal came immediately after an opening run from Basalt and caught the Longhorns’ defense completely off guard.
Saenz snuck behind Longhorns junior stopper Amy Brumet and senior defender Katie Mulcahy, and tapped the cross into the back of the net before Basalt goalie Dayne Toney could get a jump on the ball. “We knew coming out that the initial momentum of the first 10 minutes was going to ultimately decide the game and we wanted to come out strong with a goal,” said Longhorns senior stopper Emily Birk. “We had a quick good run up the field, but they countered, and I think that goal had a lot to do with the outcome of the game.”
Basalt had bursts of scoring chances, but they came between long stretches when both teams traded possessions in the middle of the field or when St. Mary’s was on the offensive.Fitzpatrick’s miss in the middle of the second half on what looked to be a sure goal was arguably more deflating than the early Pirates score, Staerkel said.”It’s all a mental game,” said the senior, slowed in her final game by a nagging ankle injury. “As soon as we get that goal scored on us we go in the hole, and then somebody misses one when we think it’s going to be in there, and it just takes that much more out of us. It sucks, but that’s the way it works.”I think it was extra motivation for them, because we came in knowing we had beat them, so we underestimated what they could do and it bit us in the ass.”After Cardenas’ goal early in the second half, Basalt frantically pressed the pace – sensing that its season was slipping away. The Longhorns had three consecutive scoring chances but each time the ball didn’t find the net – and the frustration mounted.
“It was us playing kickball, not usually playing the way we play, which is putting balls at the feet,” Staerkel said. “They’re used to a turf field, and we’re not.”In the 64th minute, St. Mary’s nearly had another goal when a header bounced off the crossbar over Toney’s head. Ten minutes later, Saenz put the game out of reach – breaking her own school record from last season.”We were given a bunch of information, but I don’t know, I just think that we just had it in our heads that we had the advantage in so many places and just thought that it would come naturally, instead of actually utilizing it,” Birk said.Basalt loses seven seniors to graduation – including nearly all of its back line. The only returnees on defense are Toney and Brumet, who left Thursday’s game late in the second half with a leg injury, then returned to the field for the conclusion.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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