Soccer: Aspen holds off CRMS in overtime thriller |

Soccer: Aspen holds off CRMS in overtime thriller

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jon Maletz/The Aspen TimesThe Skiers' Annie Graber collides with CRMS' Kesley Freeman (17) on Tuesday at Aspen High School.

ASPEN – The Aspen girls soccer team had to work overtime in its first match in nearly two weeks.

Tati Armstrong made sure the added effort paid off. The senior made her final regular-season appearance on the Aspen High pitch a memorable one, converting a free kick from about 30 yards out midway through the first overtime, propelling the Skiers to a 2-1 victory over Colorado Rocky Mountain School.

“I’ve been perfecting that shot for five or 10 years, so it’s about time,” Armstrong joked afterward. “There were a bunch of people in the box, so it was very surprising that the ball went in. … It seemed like there was a force field around the goal all game. We couldn’t penetrate it.”

The Skiers (9-0-1 overall, 7-0-1 3A Region 3) “could not buy a goal” in the early going, head coach John Gillies lamented.

“It’s the same thing every year because of Ex-Ed. It’s like we have to start the season all over again,” he added. “They haven’t kicked a ball for a week – they’ve been hiking mountains, riding bikes, canoeing, rafting and stuff.”

It showed in the early going, when the scoring chances – and a slew of frustrating misses – piled up. Aspen’s offense appeared to be operating at peak efficiency in the middle of the pitch, but promising plays routinely broke down near the CRMS net. Multiple shots sailed wide while others bounded off the posts and the crossbar.

During a six-minute stretch midway through the first half, senior Annie Graber missed a penalty kick, then had a wide-open look strike a teammate.

The senior redeemed herself in the second half. Graber chased down a loose ball in traffic in the 52nd minute, then one-timed a powerful liner into the near corner.

The lead lasted all of 10 minutes; Marie Kammer squared things with an impressive individual effort, knifing through two defenders and slipping a shot past diving Skiers goalkeeper Sally McGuren.

“They looked tired,” Gillies said of his squad. “It’s tough to come out on the field (after a long layoff) and run yourself ragged, but they showed great spirit.”

And resilience. Aspen’s shots continued to go awry in the waning minutes of regulation, but the Skiers kept pushing the pace.

That energy was rewarded with a free kick little more than two minutes into the first overtime.

Armstrong trotted in to take the shot.

“You have to focus on not trying to look at the goal before kicking. If you look up too early the ball will go over the goal, which is embarrassing,” she said. “I just try to look where the goalie isn’t, look for the corners and for my teammates. If (the shot) is two inches off, someone can still be there to head it in.”

Armstrong did not need any assistance. Her attempt sailed around the CRMS wall and clipped the far corner of the net, sealing the dramatic victory.

“A tie would’ve been disappointing, would’ve brought our spirits down,” Armstrong said. “Now, we can head into the next few games ready and prepared.”

The Skiers visit Basalt at 4 p.m. Thursday, then Coal Ridge on Saturday.

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