Soccer: Basalt blanks VMS, clinches league title
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT – While Tuesday’s dramatic one-goal victory over Coal Ridge ostensibly decided the league title, Basalt still had some work to do Thursday against visiting Vail Mountain School.
Consider it done.
The Longhorns dominated the Gore Rangers throughout and closed with a flurry, connecting for three goals in the final 10-plus minutes en route to a 4-0, 3A Region 3 title-clinching victory.
Basalt (10-3-1 overall, 7-0-1 conference), which has won two straight league crowns and three in the last four seasons, will open postseason play at home next week. The state tournament field will be announced Sunday afternoon.
“We knew what we had to do. We came out a little slow, but in the end we’re happy with what happened,” Jake Musser said.
Added co-head coach Brent Hayes: “It feels good to come back from being in second place all season and take it in the last two games.”
VMS (3-8-2), which was fighting for a playoff berth Thursday, did not make things easy on the home team – at least in the early stages. While they were outplayed, the Gore Rangers kept things close, thanks in part to opportunistic defense and a host of errant Longhorns shots.
“[Getting into the playoffs] came down to a game against the league champs, which is a challenge,” VMS head coach Slade Cogswell admitted. “The guys were able to rise to the challenge. We just didn’t have the extra stroke of sports luck we needed.”
Sebastian Liuzzi broke the scoreless tie in the 21st minute, controlling a pass from Musser up the far sideline and ripping a low liner past Gore Rangers goalkeeper William Sterett.
While Basalt’s scoring chances continued to pile up, goals did not.
“I knew we were tired [after Tuesday]. I’m guessing that’s one of the reasons [we didn’t score more early],” Liuzzi said. “It was definitely frustrating.”
“The boys were frustrated, we were frustrated. We know we need to be better going forward than this,” Hayes added. “It was huge [getting those goals at the end]. … It was a good reward considering we had dominated.”
In a matter of minutes, the high-powered Longhorns turned this match into a rout. Musser extended the lead to two when, with about 10 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the second half, he headed home a perfect corner kick from Liuzzi.
Little more than a minute later, Liuzzi scored for a second time; he sprinted up the right sideline, stopped abruptly to shake a VMS defender and booted a left-footed shot past Sterett.
Sergio Andrade padded the lead in the final two minutes, when he hit the crossbar, controlled the deflection and scored.
The Basalt defense held the Gore Rangers at bay all afternoon, securing their fourth shutout in the last five games.
The Longhorns have dropped just one game since Sept. 9.
“We gave ourselves a chance until the last 10 minutes,” Cogswell said. “Basalt is a great team. They played well and moved the ball well.”
While handshakes were exchanged after the final whistle, the celebration on the home sideline was muted. Basalt players and coaches are hoping this is just the beginning.
The Longhorns will look to reverse a recent trend in postseason play; they have been ousted in the quarterfinals in three of the last four seasons.
“We’ll celebrate for a little while, but then it’s back to training,” Musser said. “I’ve been on this team for the past two years, and I haven’t been as confident as I am now.”
Added Hayes: “We talked before the game about needing six straight wins [to win state]. That’s the way I feel we need to go about it.”
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