Second-half surge lifts Grand Junction over Aspen |

Second-half surge lifts Grand Junction over Aspen

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – This is what head coach Meredith Elwell Sauder wanted.An opportunity to compete at a higher level. An opportunity to build a girls lacrosse program at Aspen High School.The first three games of the Skiers’ inaugural varsity campaign have been filled with both growing pains and learning experiences.”This is a new year and a new experience. We have to respect that fact, but we’re not lowering our standards and expectations for how we play,” Elwell Sauder said Monday. “We’re adjusting and tweaking things, and that’s a huge credit to the players and their hunger for the game.”Aspen will continue to adjust. That much is clear after Monday’s home debut against Grand Junction. The young Skiers, who dress just one senior, jumped out to an early lead and trailed by just one at halftime. Their offense went missing from there, however, and their defense soon followed. The Tigers struck for two goals in the first 52 seconds of the second half, nine in the final 25 minutes and cruised to a 13-5 win.Aspen has dropped two straight since its season-opening, 8-2 win over Eagle Valley. “When momentum shifts, it’s tough to regain it,” Elwell Sauder said. “We didn’t respond the way we needed to. … They gained the momentum and were empowered by it.”Maddie Spor and Morgan Ambruster each knifed through the Skiers’ defense and scored in the opening minute of the second half, stretching the Grand Junction advantage to 6-3. “At halftime we were psyched that we were down one,” Aspen sophomore Olivia Porcaro said. “Then they scored those two goals. That was where most of the girls gave up.”The Skiers defense appeared hesitant, were slow to loose balls and rarely stepped in to contest Tigers players. Amy Flukey took advantage. With 16 minutes remaining, she cradled the ball as she jogged behind Aspen’s goal, made one quick move and went low to beat goalkeeper Molly Kandota.Later, Ambruster scored twice and Santana Martinez once in a four-minute stretch to give Grand Junction a seven-goal cushion. The duo combined for nine goals.”I usually play attack, and when I went on defense I realized we have a lot we need to work on,” Porcaro said.”We weren’t winning the 50-50 balls we needed,” Elwell Sauder added, “and we needed to possess the ball a little more on the attack.”Conner Delany found the net with 6:47 to play to halt Aspen’s nearly 30-minute scoring drought. Little more than a minute later, Porcaro chased down a Tigers player from behind, forced the ball loose with a well-timed check and sprinted the other way for the score. Similar effort helped the Skiers keep things close in a seesaw first half. Allie Garrett sprinted up the middle and fired a low liner for a score six minutes into the game, then, after two Grand Junction goals, Isabelle Woodrow converted with a well-placed shot.Later, Sydney Mondry squared the game at three. Emma Le Febre answered 10 minutes before halftime for Grand Junction, which never looked back. “It’s a lot more aggressive and there’s a lot more ball handling [at the varsity level compared to club],” Porcaro said. “We need to pass and catch better and help our goalie out more. … We have another chance against them this season, and hopefully it goes better then.”Aspen hosts Battle Mountain at 4 p.m. Thursday.”This is what we wanted, what we’re getting and what we’re excited for,” Elwell Sauder said. “It’s hard to take these hits and still see the light, but we keep reminding them every day that they’re getting better.”

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