Save keys Skiers victory
CARBONDALE – Aspen goalkeeper Alex Owen ambled between the posts, tapping each with his gloves before settling in the middle of the goal.The junior, legs throbbing like the butterflies in his stomach, stared intently at Roaring Fork’s Logan Doherty. Moments earlier, Aspen’s Ryan Dunn was whistled for a hand ball inside the box in the 37th minute.And now, as Doherty lined up for the penalty kick, Owen searched for any tell, any hint he could discern.”I tried to focus on where he was looking – usually they look one way and shoot another,” Owen said. “If they hit the ball with the inside of their foot, they’ll usually hit it across their body. But mostly, it’s just a guessing game.
Owen guessed correctly. As Doherty fired a shot at the bottom right corner, Owen dove and, with arms outstretched, deflected the ball. He alertly leapt to his feet and fired the ball up the right sideline and out of harm’s way. The Rams’ scoring chance was averted. Aspen (5-3-1 overall, 4-1-1 3A Western Slope) took control. Giovanni Negroni drilled a shot past 6-foot-7 Roaring Fork goalkeeper Torrey Udall in the 53rd minute, and the Skiers held on for the 1-0 victory. “My blood pressure would prefer more goals, but it’s all about results,” Aspen coach Dave Francis said. “The great penalty save really turned the game. If it had gone in, it would’ve been an uphill battle.”A Rams player launched a throw-in into a crowded box in the waning moments of the first half, and the ball grazed Dunn’s arm. A whistle blew seconds later.”I didn’t find it to be the most brilliant call,” joked Owen, who logged a second consecutive shutout. “I saw someone push Ryan from behind, and that made the ball get his hand.”
Jawing between Skiers and the referees abated as Doherty stood over the ball. Moments later, despair turned to relief. And, as quickly as Owen lunged to his left, the Skiers seized the momentum.”It felt like we calmed down after that and got our composure back,” Owen said. “It helped everybody play better. It made us want it more.”The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting Sept. 7. Wednesday, in a game where sure-handed goalkeepers dominated and scoring chances were at a premium, Aspen produced the game-winner. Three Rams defenders descended on a loose ball in their own box in the 53rd minute, but none could produce a clear. Instead, the ball bounded to Negroni. The Italian exchange student, who missed from point-blank range twice in the first, turned and drilled a liner out of Udall’s reach. Roaring Fork, which Tuesday scored moments into the first overtime to pull out a 2-1 win against Paonia, squandered multiple chances for the equalizer. Aarick Zeigel lined up a free kick from 25 yards out in the 63rd minute, but his shot couldn’t penetrate Aspen’s wall of defenders. Later, a shot from 30 yards out scraped the crossbar. The Rams faithful rose to their feet on multiple occasions as Roaring Fork pushed the ball deep into the Aspen zone, each time in vain.
“We were able to move the ball up top, but we kept finding the top of the crossbar,” Rams coach John Ackerman said. “It’s been a season of close calls.”So, too, for the Skiers, who played in their sixth game decided by two goals or less.”We needed this win today, and we knew it would be tough,” Francis said. “We fought hard for every ball, and we got what we deserved.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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