Soccer: Aspen, Basalt girls open state tournament on road
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
For the Basalt girls soccer team, this is the road less traveled.
The Longhorns, long a 3A Region 3 power, have become accustomed to hosting postseason openers – so much so that head coach Makenzie Eshelman, a former player now in her fifth season at the helm, cannot remember the last time her team kicked off its pursuit of a state title on the road. (Basalt won 11 consecutive league crowns before finishing second to Coal Ridge in 2008, 2009 and 2010.)
That’s exactly what they’ll do Wednesday, however. By virtue of their third-place league finish, the Longhorns (10-4-1) nabbed the 21st seed in the 32-team 3A state tournament. Consequently, Basalt will be boarding a bus this morning bound for Telluride.
It will be a rare opening round underdog against a 12th-ranked Miners squad that won Region 5 and boasts a 13-1-1 record.
Eshelman and the Longhorns are relishing their new role.
“We’re adjusting well and we’re excited about it,” she said. “We’re still in the playoffs, which is really all that matters.”
Basalt is limping into postseason play. It went 2-2-1 in its final five regular season games – results directly attributable to a string of untimely injuries. In May 5’s 3-0 loss to Coal Ridge alone, the Longhorns were missing four starters.
Ginevra Moore and Lindsey Corzine still were nursing ankle injuries Tuesday afternoon, Eshelman said. Both are expected to be in the lineup Wednesday, however.
“They’re moving around and jogging,” Eshelman said. “Back at full strength would be a loose term … but they’ll be in there tomorrow. … It’s the playoffs. We don’t have a choice.”
While she admits she knows little about Telluride, a squad that lost its 2010 playoff opener to Aspen, Eshelman said the Miners look impressive on paper. They finished 11-0-1 in league play, are unbeaten in 14 games since their season-opening loss to 4A Montezuma Cortez and boast a pair of prolific goal scorers; Chancee Forestier and Sarah Wontrobski found the net 18 and 14 times, respectively.
“I’ve just seen their record, and they look very solid,” Eshelman said. “Honestly, I look on Varvee and sometimes talk to other coaches [about teams we’re playing], but I’m usually more focused on how we’re going to play our game. If we do that, we’ll be fine against anyone.”
Aspen head coach John Gillies feels his young Skiers are peaking at the opportune time. Despite a mediocre 1-3-1 mark in its last five matches, Aspen looked strong in May 5’s regular-season finale, battling to a scoreless draw against Vail Mountain School, denying the Gore Rangers’ bid for a league title.
Wednesday’s task likely will be more daunting, Gillies concedes. His 28th-ranked squad travels to Lafayette to take on No. 5 Peak to Peak (11-3-1).
“As usual, we’ve got a tough one,” joked Gillies, whose Skiers were bounced from last year’s tournament after a 5-0 loss to St. Mary’s in the Round of 16. “They’re in a tough league and are always good. With such a young team, we’re looking to go down there and gain some experience for next year. … But the thing about the tournament is anyone can win on the day as long as they’re willing to put in the hard work.”
The Skiers will need to play their best game of the spring if they are to upset the Pumas, who finished third in the highly competitive Region 6, which produced two of the top three seeds in this year’s playoffs – No. 1 Holy Family and No. 3 Faith Christian.
Peak to Peak is riding a nine-game winning streak. It has allowed just three goals during that stretch, which included a 2-1 win over 2010 state champion St. Mary’s.
Coincidentally, the Pumas topped Basalt, 3-2, in the second round last season.
“Peak to Peak last year was one of the best teams I’ve ever seen. They’re very polished,” Eshelman said. “They’re a well-oiled machine. … Aspen is a tough, fast soccer team. They can cause a ruckus at Peak to Peak.”
Eshelman is hoping her side can do the same.
“I think we’ve got something to prove. I know what we’re capable of and I don’t think we’ve hit that full potential yet,” she said. “It’s a new season now.”
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The Aspen High School ski team wrapped up its short and sweet regular season Friday with home races at Highlands. The Skiers hosted both a slalom and giant slalom on Thunderbowl, with an AHS athlete taking three of the wins.