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Seeds of envy?

Jon Maletz
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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How did the state tournament selection committee reward Aspen and Basalt for a season in which both lost only one game and finished in a dead heat atop the 3A Western Slope standings?It seeded the Longhorns sixth for a home game at 4:30 p.m.Friday against Colorado Academy (9-5-2) of the Metro Conference. And for Aspen, which won 14 of 15 games and returns to state for the first time since 2002, only a 10 seed would do. The Skiers face Alexander Dawson (11-3), the No. 7 seed and Mile High Conference champion, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Lafayette. “At first I was very surprised. I did believe we were a top-four seed,” Basalt coach Chris Woods said. “Then again, they haven’t done us many favors in the past.”Aside from having to play away from its home turf – where the Skiers surrendered one goal all season – Aspen coach John Gillies said he was content with his team’s position in the bracket, which came out Sunday. “In an ideal situation, it would’ve been nice for the seniors to have an organized last game on our field, but I know the way things work,” Gillies said. “Every team we play is going to be hard from here out.”Gillies, who served two seasons on the selection committee, is optimistic in part because he believes his team drew a better first-round matchup than its Slope counterparts. That’s something both coaches can agree on.

Colorado Academy finished fourth in the Metro, behind defending state champ Faith Christian and Kent Denver – this year’s top two seeds, respectively – and Denver Christian, the 2004 state title winner, which drew the fifth seed. During the regular season, the Mustangs tied Faith 0-0, and fell to Denver Christian and Kent by a combined 4-1. By contrast, Alexander Dawson, which finished 9-0 in conference play, dropped three games to Faith, Kent and Denver Christian by a combined 21-1. “Aspen’s got the easier first round by far,” Woods said.It’s likely the committee took into account Basalt’s and Aspen’s statistics in the watered-down Slope. Three of the league’s eight teams won two or fewer games all season. Past history could also have been a factor. No. 7 D’Evelyn ousted No. 2 seed Basalt in the second round in 2002. Basalt was fourth last year but fell to No. 12 Denver Christian, 4-2, again in the second round. Basalt made a run as the No. 3 seed in 2004 but ran into Denver Christian – then the No. 10 seed – and lost, 1-0. Aspen could potentially face Kent after a first-round win.

“I’m not trying to look too far ahead, but we might’ve have gotten the easier part of the draw [after Round 1],” said Woods, who added his team’s seeding could be a blessing should they advance Friday. “We’re not gonna run into Kent or Faith in the second. We can get a couple games under our belt before we run into them. Hopefully, by then, we’ll be playing our best.”Gillies is hoping Aspen can continue its current streak. The Skiers have won 11 straight since their 8-0 “hiccup” April 6 against Basalt, outscoring opponents 46-3. Aspen has proven it can win the close games, too. In games decided by two goals or less this season, Aspen is 7-0. It snapped a seven-year losing streak to Basalt with a 3-1 victory April 22, and outlasted Colorado Springs Christian, 1-0, in Thursday’s double-overtime state play-in game.Things are clicking at the right time, Gillies said after practice Wednesday. His team is relaxed but confident.”I’ve never seen a bunch of girls who believe in themselves so much,” he said. “They know they can do well. We know we can hang with those teams.”Woods said it was the misstep in Aspen that sparked his team. In the four games since, the Longhorns have outscored opponents, 28-0; the three goals they surrendered to Aspen were the only scores Basalt allowed during 11 conference games. Aspen and Basalt could meet for a third time on May 20 in the semifinals.

Woods isn’t concerned with a possible rematch just yet. He has endeavored to keep his team focused during an 11-day layoff. The Longhorns scrimmaged 4A Western Slope champion Battle Mountain on Friday, and have been running 11-on-11s in practice. They even took time Saturday to unwind with a game of paintball.Woods is hoping that Friday his team will be firing soccer balls at Colorado Academy’s all-state goalie Jessica Thalman. He’s also hoping his team will prove the committee and their seeding wrong.”The teams in front of us, I don’t know if they deserve to be higher than us,” Woods said. “The girls have matured a lot since Aspen, and we’ve worked on the things we need to improve to be the best. “Hopefully, our offense will light a spark Friday, and [Colorado Academy] won’t be able to catch us.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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