Skiers topple ‘Horns, five-year winless drought
Skiers senior Nicky Anastas took a few deep breaths and tried to calm his nerves.A Longhorns defender was whistled for pushing Aspen forward Stephen Buzbee in the box Saturday during the 53rd minute. And now, Anastas lined up to take the penalty kick with his team leading 1-0. A goal would likely end a career’s worth of frustration against their downvalley rivals for Aspen’s 10 seniors.Anastas left no doubt. He fired a shot to the top left corner with such velocity that Basalt keeper Reto Luzi could not react quickly enough. Aspen (7-1 overall, 6-0 3A Western Slope) pulled ahead and went on to win, 3-1. The drought is officially over. The win is the Skiers’ first against Basalt (6-2, 5-1) in more than five years. “That was the killer,” Basalt head coach John McDermott said. “It was a hard-fought and very well-played game. We missed some chances to put the game away, and a couple calls just didn’t go our way.”
The much-hyped matchup between the 3A Western Slope’s strongest teams lived up to its billing. Aspen and Basalt, no doubt aware of the game’s league and postseason implications, came out battling in a physical first half. Both teams had opportunities early to strike.Basalt sophomore Marshall Cleveland dove in the box and headed a perfect cross off the right post midway through the half. Senior Ryan Zubizarreta faded behind the defense and was primed to finish a well-placed pass from senior Trevor Brown; a hard slide tackle from a Skiers defender negated the chance.Luzi fearlessly chased down loose balls in traffic to thwart a few early Skiers chances. Aspen sophomore Baker Boyd, however, capitalized on one of Luzi’s few missteps of the game in the 37th minute. After Basalt’s Ryan Mylott earned a yellow card for a rough tackle on Buzbee, Anastas and Ryder Fyrwald lined up for the free kick from left of the goal. Anastas jumped over the ball, and Fyrwald passed the ball to Boyd near the middle. Boyd dribbled to his right, then delivered a soft shot toward the left post. Luzi, momentarily caught off guard, slipped when he tried to change directions and could not stop the ball.”We worked that play in practice and it gave us a boost,” Aspen coach Junior Sutherland said, “We should’ve went up 2-0 before the half, but it’s nice to get this result. This is a tough place to come and get a result like this.”
Buzbee was all alone behind the defense, charging fast with seconds remaining in the first, but his shot sailed wide. The 2005 Slope co-MVP, who was marked and battered all day, did not miss a similar chance in the second.Buzbee collided with Basalt junior Michael Eaton seconds after the start of the second half and left the game for more than 10 minutes. When he returned, multiple defenders shadowed him. He did, however, find some open space in the 78th minute during a one-on-one situation. Buzbee blew by the defender and launched a powerful shot from left of the goal that rattled the back of the net. “We have a little more experience and it helped us,” Anastas said. “It was tough out there, but this is a the game we’ve wanted.”A few minutes earlier, Longhorns junior midfielder John Peckler cut the lead to one on a strong kick from 20 yards out. Basalt continued to pressure Aspen keeper Andy Conarroe with desperation shots from nearly. The sure-handed senior and the Aspen defense didn’t flinch.”I’m so proud of the way my guys performed and battled, everyone of them,” Sutherland said. “They deserve this win.”
Buzbee’s score put to rest any hopes of a Basalt comeback. The win snaps Aspen’s 10-game winless streak against Basalt, which spanned five years. The home loss was the first for Zubizarreta and Brown. “This one cuts deep,” Zubizarreta said. “I don’t think this will leave my mind for the next few weeks.”We’ll bounce back. We know where we have to be. We know what we have to do.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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The 2020-21 Nordic combined season was supposed to be historic. This winter was going to be the first ever with women’s Nordic combined World Cup events, the first scheduled for Dec. 3-6 in Lillehammer, Norway.