Second-half surge leads Aspen over Paonia
Aspen soccer coach Grant Sutherland has been delivering the same halftime speech for what seems like weeks, repeatedly harping on his players in a desperate attempt to quell their notorious slow starts. After another disappointing first 45 minutes Thursday, the Skiers finally took the hint.Sutherland’s words incited instant gratification as Aspen came up with four second-half goals to pull away from Paonia for a 6-1 victory.”I lost it at halftime because I wasn’t happy with the performance. It was shocking,” Sutherland said. “We just couldn’t finish our chances. I was glad to see we came out fired up in the second.”Just five minutes into the second, Aspen forward Stephen Buzbee emerged from a pack of players inside Paonia’s box, heading the ball past Eagles goalie Chris Cotton for his 11th goal of the season, stretching the lead to 3-0.It was the second time in the first 45 minutes that Buzbee positioned himself perfectly. When a shot by Nicky Anastas bounced off Cotton’s glove, then the crossbar, Buzbee was on the goal line to kick it through, putting Aspen on the board, 1-0, after 15 minutes in the first.
The Skiers forwards – slow and easily marked by the Eagles defenders in the first – picked up their intensity in the second half. They routinely ran full-speed to contest loose balls and fired crisp centering passes into the box, creating handfuls of scoring opportunities.Unable to capitalize on similar chances in the first, the Skiers finally – and consistently – found the back of the net in the second half. Forward Ryder Fyrwald, who found himself around the Paonia goal for much of the second, finally put one through at the 25-minute mark. The junior drilled a line-drive shot from left of the box past Cotton and the Eagle defenders, giving Aspen a 4-0 advantage. Minutes later, junior Eric Sciarrone showed touch and creativity when he dribbled around a defender and lobbed the ball over Cotton for the goal. Aspen would add one final goal in the 40th minute when freshman Jesus Mesa’s centering pass bounced off Cotton’s gloves and into the net.When the Aspen offense has found its stride this season, the Skiers have put up impressive numbers. Aspen (7-3) is outscoring its opponents 31-16.”The midfielders created chances for the forwards on the left and right for most of the second,” Sutherland said. “The more wins we have, the more confidence we’ll have. Hopefully we can get a run going. I don’t want to lose the rest of the year.” Anastas added a goal with one minute left in the first when Baker Boyd opted to pass his corner kick wide instead of into the crowded box. Anastas, finding himself in open space, fired a shot into the left corner of the goal.
The inconsistent Skiers have found their stride at home this season, going 4-0. In those games, the Aspen defense has surrendered just four goals.With less than one minute left in the second, Eagles forward Alex Quinone put Paonia (0-10) on the board when he broke free from the pack and beat Aspen goalie Fred Bernard one on one.In his first start since suffering a concussion in a head-on collision with Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s Chris Sellers Sept. 15, Skiers sweeper Henry Cote helped shore up the Aspen defense. Bernard’s diving stops on consecutive Eagles scoring chances late in the second helped preserve the five-goal win. Eagles forward Daniel Brown’s apparent goal on a curving corner kick 20 minutes into the second was called back after one referee had inadvertently blown the whistle, forcing the Skiers defenders to stop.Cote, who played 10 minutes late in the second half of Aspen’s loss in Vail on Tuesday, played the entire first half and all but 10 minutes in the second.”My head feels fine and it felt great to be out there,” Cote said. “While I was off, I wasn’t running so I was winded. But after the rest [at halftime], I was ready.
“I didn’t think twice [about heading the ball],” Cote said. “I know I probably scared a lot of people, but if you’re scared and hold back, that’s how you get hurt.”With his first header out of the way at Vail, Cote was hesitant but seemed comfortable on the field, Sutherland said. The senior headed multiple balls and was quick to challenge hard-charging Paonia forwards to clear balls out of the zone.Cote made a game-time decision to play without the use of headgear he received from San Diego-based manufacturer Full90. He said he felt fine without it and didn’t think it would make much of a difference considering the brain does not touch the skull.Sutherland said he spoke with a neurosurgeon who claimed wearing the headgear was as much about confidence as anything else and would not save Cote from another concussion. “It was his choice and he talked it over with the coach beforehand,” said Cote’s father, Bo, who watched his son take the field for the first time since the accident. “I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but I don’t have the final say whether he wears it or not.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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In the 50-mile race, three-time Olympian and Aspen bred Simi Hamilton bombed down Fanny Hill to capture the overall men’s title. Hamilton, who retired from professional cross-country skiing earlier this year, completed the race in a time of 4 hours, 17 minutes, 19 seconds. Nicole Tittensor, from Axtell, Utah, was the first woman to finish the 50-mile race.