Salida stuns Basalt in semis
During inspired sieges on the Salida goal that defined the first half, it seemed for Basalt like it was just a simple matter of time before somebody knocked a ball in. A header, a left-footer, a one-timer off a cross, and they brought it all to Salida goalie Patrick Hurley, some ‘Horn – Felipe Sanchez, Ryan Zubizaretta, Ben Pollock or Cy Eaton for starters – was going to put one away Saturday night in the Class 3A state semifinals in Arvada.The Basalt High players and bench sensed it and played like it, hungry and purposeful. So did the boisterous Longhorn fans, a foot-stomping bunch numbering a couple of hundred. A season that began in earnest a year earlier with a 1-0 (late goal) loss to Salida in the state quarterfinals could not and would not to be halted by the same team in the semifinals this year. And No. 2 seed Basalt had rightly earned favorite status by beating this No. 3 Salida team 2-nil during the regular season in September.Still, despite flurry after flurry with near-misses wide and high and big saves by Salida’s Hurley, the Basalt goal of destiny never came.And with 15:55 left, Salida sophomore Tyler Keidel scored unassisted angling in from the wing, and Salida hung on to win 1-0.Basalt (15-2-1 overall) outshot Salida (16-2-0) by a margin of two to one – 20 shots to 10 – but opportunities they worked so meticulously to manufacture went unconverted.And while the ‘Horns matched their farthest push in the state playoffs to date (the 2001 team made the BHS boys’ first final four appearance), that in itself did nothing to deaden the sting at the final whistle.
Basalt starters and reserves both writhed in anguish on the lighted field. Many of them cried, more stunned and saddened than demoralized or vanquished.”We did everything we needed to do,” said Felipe Sanchez, the junior striker, pacing alone at midfield afterward. “But in soccer it’s said that the team that doesn’t capitalize on the other teams’ mistakes is the team that loses. I think we let it slip by.”And so a season, really a calendar year for many of the players on the 20-man roster, that came to include pickup games indoors over the winter, club soccer in the spring and then summer-league play, ends.”It sucks when you have so many opportunities in front of the net and you can’t put one away,” said senior midfielder and co-captain Cy Eaton. “You put one away and it changes the whole outcome of the game. It’s sad to go down like this.”Four-year BHS head coach Erik Streff, who coached many of the upperclassmen before their high school years on Basalt club teams, had trouble making sense of the loss.
“You out-play and out-shoot a team, and a great team, not taking anything away from Salida, because they sat back and waited for an opportunity like they always do, and they capitalized on one of their good opportunities and we just couldn’t capitalize… It’s the Basalt jinx, honestly.””The boys were ready to play and they came out strong. We had a lot of chances to put the ball in the net. It’s just unlucky bounces, I guess.”While Basalt dictated play in the first half, comfortably controlling possession and passing lanes, Salida came out a different team in the second half. Salida players hit the Basalt post and crossbar, both on shots that Basalt goalie Jamie Wirkler leaped to deflect wide, if ever so slightly, of the goal.”Basalt was doing a great job, playing very simple soccer, using their flanks, using their speed – they’ve got great team speed – and they were killing us,” said Salida coach Scott McFarland. “But we made adjustments in the second half, moved a couple guys around to give ourselves better match-ups, tried to calm the nerves, and the guys started moving the ball better, and then that changed the whole style of play.””Erik has a bunch of classy boys and I would say you watched today the two best-coached teams in the state for Class 3A. He does what I do – we develop players. We’re not given five million [people] to make a squad, so we have to use what we got and I admire them for that,” added McFarland, who was sporting a Boston Red Sox hat. “And I think the rivalry is only going to intensify.”Two minutes into the second half, Basalt’s Pollock served a cross into the box for Eaton, who ripped a one-timer on goal and into the hands of keeper Hurley. And while it resembled a number of earlier opportunities for Basalt, Salida was due for its own chances, including the crossbar and post strikes that served as preambles to the goal.Said Basalt goalie Wirkler, a junior: “We could’ve played better in the second half. We didn’t play smart like we had been playing – some of our passes were stupid passes. So from my point of view in the goal, the first half was awesome, but we needed a full game, 80 minutes. That’s what we’ve been saying all year. And coach said it in the locker room, he guaranteed a win if we played 80 minutes. It was just a letdown that put us out.”
“Salida’s style of play is defense, defense, defense,” added Eaton. “And every now and then they’ll get one good counter and they’ll finish it, and then they’ll play defense, defense, defense for the rest of the game. And once they put one on you, you’re pretty much done. You can’t let them get up on top or you’re through.”Salida becomes the first public school team since 1992 to play in the Class 3A state championship game, according to Salida’s McFarland. Salida is also the first Western Slope team to play in the 3A finals since as far back as statistics go on the Rocky Mountain News’ preps site http://www.rockypreps, he said.It’s exactly the legacy Basalt had hoped to seize for its own.”Everyone thought that this was going to be the year,” said Wirkler. “This was the year.”Salida faces No. 1 seed Faith Christian (18-0-0) for the state championship on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Arvada.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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