Longhorns set for ‘hard-fought battle’
When the 20-some members of the Basalt High boys soccer team board a bus bound for the Front Range this afternoon, the destination placard might as well read “Final Four” or, better yet, “Destiny.”Basalt, the No. 2 seed in Class 3A state tournament, kicks off with No. 3 Salida in the semifinals on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the North Area Athletic Complex (NAAC) in Arvada. The winner will advance to the state championship game, slated for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the NAAC, while the loser is finished.Basalt, at 15-1-1 overall in the season, enters with a 16-game unbeaten streak that includes a 2-0 victory over Salida back on Sept. 16 at the BHS field. In that match – juniors Ben Pollock and Felipe Sanchez scored goals, and sophomore Ryan Zubizaretta had both assists – Basalt avenged a 1-0 state quarterfinal loss at Salida that ended the Longhorns’ 2003 campaign.”Things definitely went well earlier in the season,” Basalt coach Erik Streff said Thursday referring to the Salida game. “But this is a different time and different things are at stake now. And I think the kids realize that, and that it’s going to take more effort than our last game in order to come out on top.”While Basalt dictated the Sept. 16 result against Salida with stubborn defense and opportunistic offense, the Salida coach hinted that things would be different should the teams meet again. And since then, Salida (15-2-0) has won 11 straight games.Salida coach Scott McFarland told The Times then: “We kept trying to force it. We had a lack of recognition, lack of adjustments, lack of finishing. We’re disappointed. … The good thing is the playoffs are more than a month away.”Basalt suffered a 0-0 tie against Vail Mountain Sept. 24, but the ‘Horns have won nine straight since. The Longhorns’ only loss this season came in their season-opener, now some three months distant on Sept. 3, 4-1 against defending 3A state champion Faith Christian.Faith Christian, the No. 1 seed at 17-0-0, will face No. 5 Denver Christian (11-4-2) in the first 3A semifinal on Saturday at the NAAC at 4:45 p.m.Coach Streff said the BHS team would practice today after a half-day of school. Afterward, the team planned to bus over to the Denver area. On Saturday morning, Streff planned to run one last practice.”We’re going to try to go into it a little bit calmer, more relaxed than we have been,” he said. “Because we want to enjoy it, but also be ready for it.”We pretty much knew after [the quarterfinal loss] last year – Salida only lost a few seniors – that they’d be a team we might see again. Both teams are similar and they know each other well, so I think it’s going to be a hard-fought battle.”It is cool to see two public schools in the semifinals, but I do wish we would have had the opportunity to make it two public schools in the finals. But we can’t complain, either. We’re exactly where we want to be, where we’ve worked to be, and we’re liking it.”
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