Mustangs best the West once more

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

BASALT Scoring chances have been scarce and goals nonexistent against the Basalt soccer team’s defense. The Longhorns held foes scoreless for the equivalent of more than seven hours of play in its first five and a half contests this season.

The gaudy statistics and Basalt’s imposing back line didn’t intimidate Manitou Springs midfielder Jordan Lang. The senior scored twice – one the equalizer and the other the game-winner – from outside the box during a one-minute span in the second half Saturday to propel the Mustangs to the 2-1 win in a battle of two of 3A’s top public school programs.The victory is Manitou’s second in as many days against a Western Slope conference foe; it scored three goals in the first 11 minutes Friday against Aspen and cruised to the 6-0 win. “The players were gassed after two tough days, but this was a gutsy performance,” Mustangs coach Matt Barton said. “I told the girls I didn’t care about the score. I just wanted to see them come out and play their best.”We controlled our possessions fairly well, and it ending up working out for us.”

Manitou (6-1) stretched the field midway through the second and pushed the ball deep in Basalt’s zone. Lang, who trailed the play, faded toward the middle and settled in an open area between defenders. A teammate passed back to her, and Lang uncorked a shot 18 minutes into the half that barely sailed over Toney’s outstretched hands to tie the game.Lang, who scored two goals Friday against the Skiers, struck again one minute later on a similar play. She charged a ball fed backwards in the Basalt zone and fired a shot from the top of the box that sailed underneath the crossbar and in.”We started working the ball around, and it started opening up space at the top of the 18,” Lang said. “We were evenly matched teams, we just came through in the end and put two away.”Longhorns senior Katie Staerkel made a bid for the tie – and her team-leading 12th goal – with five minutes to play, but her shot from the right side sailed high. She tugged at her shorts and flailed her arms in frustration and she jogged back toward midfield.”They weren’t deflated, they were disappointed because they knew they messed up,” said Basalt coach Chris Woods, whose team outscored opponents 29-0 heading into Saturday. “We knew they were going to bring in a player late, pass back and take the shot. It ended up happening twice, and we weren’t ready. Both shots were an inch below the crossbar. What can you do?”

Manitou generated nine shot attempts on Basalt goalkeeper Dayne Toney in the opening 40 minutes but came away empty-handed. The Longhorns (5-1) also generated multiple scoring chances that went awry. They did, however, capitalize on a Mustangs miscue to take the lead 24 minutes in.During a battle for a loose ball, Manitou’s Mari Tanabe extended one arm to hold off Basalt’s Katheryne Fitzpatrick and knocked the Longhorns forward to the ground. Tanabe was whistled for the push, setting up a Basalt free kick from left of the box. Alia Munger lined up the shot and lofted the ball over the outstretched fingers of goalkeeper Ashley Echeandia and into the net.Still, the scoring opportunities that didn’t fall in during the first half concerned Woods.”We had a couple of other legitimate scoring chances that didn’t go through,” he said. “We were within whiskers of going up by two. We needed to take advantage of those opportunities in a tight game like this.”

Woods’ anxieties came to fruition in the second half as Manitou succeeded where others had stumbled all season.”The bottom line is that we get some experience for the playoffs,” Woods said. “I asked my players if they’d be confident if they met this team in the playoffs, and they all said yes. This did nothing but give us confidence.”This is where our season starts.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is