Soccer: Aspen seniors net recognition
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Aspen soccer coach Junior Sutherland believes Hotchkiss’ triumph in Tuesday’s 3A state championship could lead to a reduction in traditional Front-Range biases. He said Wednesday that the victory will likely garner increased recognition for Western Slope teams in the future.
Sutherland might have a hard time recognizing his own team next fall. Sixteen Skiers ” 80 percent of the varsity roster ” are seniors, not to mention the catalysts behind Aspen’s third-place conference finish and return to the state tournament after a one-year hiatus.
“It’s going to be tough,” Sutherland said Wednesday. “These kids worked hard from the start of the season and came together as a unit. We had a good season. … It’s back to the drawing board now. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Replacing the large quantity of players will be a challenge, as will making up for production lost. Four departing seniors were recently honored with Region 7 postseason awards. Kelly Selby and Murphy Fyrwald were All-Conference first-team selections, while Kyle Lusk and Ben Armstrong were honorable mentions. Hotchkiss teammates Alex Quinonez and Casey Sidor shared player of the year honors and the Bulldogs’ Elaine Wood was named coach of the year.
Selby headlined an Aspen defense that produced seven shutouts in 2008, including a scoreless draw against the state-champion Bulldogs on Sept. 13. He shadowed one of top-seeded Colorado Springs Christian’s prime goal scorers in a second-round playoff game and held him in check. The Skiers trailed, 1-0, after the first half, but had a goal negated by an offsides call early in the second. The Lions scored soon after on a penalty kick and went on to win, 4-0.
Selby’s presence was felt on offense, too. In addition to handling the bulk of the Skiers’ free kicks, he spent some time at midfield and chipped in with five goals, including the game-winner against Montrose on Aug. 30.
“Kelly just plays with passion, 100 percent passion,” Sutherland said. “He’s such a fantastic player.”
Fyrwald, a three-year varsity starter, split time between positions in 2008. He scored two goals as a midfielder early in the season before making the move to sweeper. When he teamed with Armstrong and Selby on defense, the Skiers won three straight to close out the regular season ” they allowed just two goals during that span ” and locked up third place in the conference.
“We moved him back to sweeper. He didn’t want to, but I asked and he did it,” Sutherland said. “He really stepped up. … He’s such a levelheaded, strong player.”
While he struggled with his composure early in the season, Lusk proved to be the team’s most consistent scorer down the stretch and developed a knack for producing the big goal. He led the team with seven goals, three of which came in Aspen’s final five games.
He produced the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over Coal Ridge in the regular season’s final game, then scored once and assisted on another in a 2-0 win over No. 16 Ridgway in the 17th-seeded Skiers’ playoff opener.
Aspen was one of just four teams to upset a higher seed in the tournament.
“He’s got the speed and the agility, but the thing he lacked was composure,” Sutherland said. “Toward the end, he really composed himself. … He got the big goals in the big games.”
And Armstrong helped prevent opponents from answering. While he missed much of the preseason, he returned to win back his starting job before the start of the regular season. He was a fixture on the field from then on.
“He would do anything for you, he was our bread and butter,” Sutherland said. “You ask him to do a job and he did it.
“Those are the kinds of kids we’re going to miss next year. … Hopefully, we’ll plug away like we always do.”
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Despite an abbreviated meet schedule complicated by lingering pandemic impacts, the Demons enter Friday’s Class 4A Western Slope League championships in Grand Junction as the heavy favorites to win their first league title in nearly a decade.