Senior day ends with soccer loss to Roaring Fork
The Aspen Times
Down two goals with only seconds to play, Aspen High School senior Annabelle Wilcox chased down the soccer ball at midfield as if it were the opening minutes of the match.
She frantically rushed the ball ahead in one final, vain attempt to put the Skiers on the scoreboard.
The final horn, however, ended the contest with valley-rival Roaring Fork holding a 2-0 victory on a bittersweet senior day at Aspen High School.
The loss didn’t dampen the enthusiasm Wilcox shared with her fellow seniors in their final Western Slope League game.
“I feel like you’ve got to give all you have,” said Wilcox, known for her relentless play. “It’s one of our last games. Might as well go all out, try your hardest.”
Once in each half, Wilcox nearly found the net against the Rams, who already had clinched a berth in the postseason playoffs.
But each time, the Roaring Fork defense turned back the challenge with goalie Madison Handy protecting the shutout for the Rams, 12-2-1 overall, 7-2-0 in conference.
The Rams, meanwhile, scored in the 10th minute of play with Emily Fisher’s first goal.
The sophomore scored again midway through the second half. Assists for Roaring Fork went to Taylor Adams, Heidi Small and Nayeli Alfaro.
Play in the rivalry match turned physical in the second match.
After watching one of her teammates get leveled in a collision, Wilcox answered with a hard tackle of her own.
The senior captain drew a yellow card, a huge cheer from her teammates and even more respect from her head coach.
“I can’t stand by and watch one of my teammates get pushed around. I’m not like that,” said Wilcox, the daughter of Juliet and John Wilcox. “I have to get in there and stand up for my team.”
No surprise to John Gillies, Aspen’s veteran head coach.
“Bella is tough. She runs her heart out,” Gillies said. “She is probably the most phenomenal sports girls I’ve come across.”
Wilcox was honored Thursday along with fellow Aspen seniors Kaitlyn Black, Katrina Klawiter, Lindsay Nelson, Elise Marrs, Yoseline Ayala, Julia Ristine, Jesse Wagner and goalie Sally McGuren.
Marrs, injured earlier in the season, started for the Skiers and was on the field for the opening minute before moving to the sidelines to cheer on her teammates.
McGuren also drew the attention of Roaring Fork and head coach Heather Fox.
“The first time we saw (Aspen) this season, we learned their keeper plays really far out in the field,” Fox said. “We practiced for that (Wednesday), and I feel like we were ready for that (Thursday).”
She said McGuren does a great job with her aggressive play.
“She plays it very well. She has a great read on the game, which is why she can do that.”
Fox was pleased with the Rams passing, particularly on a Fisher goal that came at the end of five consecutive passes.
“Those are the plays you want to capture. That’s what you are trying to teach,” the Roaring Fork coach said. “You love to see that.”
She also praised the steady play of her shutout defense, led by Maddie Nieslanik, Toni Gross and Georgia Ackerman, among others.
“We’re hoping this win will put us in a better position for state,” Fox said of the Rams, with a veteran roster of eight seniors.
They’ll advance to the Class 3A playoffs next week.
The Skiers, meanwhile, will host Grand Valley in a nonconference game today at Aspen High School (4 p.m.).
With Thursday’s loss, they fell to 4-4-1 in conference, 5-4-4 overall.
Coal Ridge, Grand Valley, Roaring Fork will advance to the playoffs along with Moffat County, the team that edged the Skiers with a 5-4-0 league record.
“I don’t think we could buy a goal (Thursday),” Gillies said after the Skiers couldn’t hit the scoreboard against the Rams.
“It’s been a strange season,” he said. “Now, we’ll go out against Grand Valley for a little bit of pride.”
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This decision is part of a game plan to focus on giant slalom and slalom in the early part of season. Shiffrin will likely also pass on a speed stop in Val d’Isere from Dec. 18-20.