Soccer: Basalt survives scare, tops Telluride in first round
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT – The commands and the shouts of encouragement stopped. In the waning minutes of Thursday’s 3A state tournament opener, Basalt head soccer coach Brent Hayes silently and anxiously paced the sidelines, wearing out a patch of grass in front of the home bench.
“That’s how it always goes in the playoffs when you’re up by one,” he said. “All you can do is try and hang on.”
The sixth-seeded Longhorns did just that.
Basalt was tested throughout against 27th-seeded Telluride – and outplayed for much of the final half. The Longhorns managed to make a 23rd-minute goal from Sean Ryan hold up, however, escaping with a 1-0 victory to secure both a spot in the Round of 16 and another chance to play host.
“To survive with a 1-0 lead for almost 60 minutes, I’m proud of them. Although they did do just enough diving to give me a heart attack,” Hayes said. “We were giving them kicks from just outside the 18 and diving in. We’ve got to work on the basics. That’s what it’s going to come down to, so we have to work on that if we want to go any further.”
Basalt (13-1-1) next will square off with either No. 11 Estes Park or No. 22 Lutheran. Because those two teams will not play until this afternoon, it has yet to be determined whether the Longhorns’ second-round game will be played Saturday or Monday.
Basalt did not have time to start looking ahead Thursday. It was locked in a tight battle with the Miners from the outset, just as Hayes expected.
Telluride (10-4-2) initially was seeded 16th when the 32-team postseason field was unveiled Sunday afternoon. The bracket subsequently was retracted, however, because of inaccurate information provided to the seeding committee.
When the amended version was released Monday, the Miners learned they had gone from hosting a first-round game to having to hit the road and face a Longhorns squad that routed them, 8-1, in 2009’s playoff opener.
“They got pretty hosed. That is a top-16 team, no doubt,” Hayes said. “I do feel bad that they had to deal with what they did. It wasn’t fair to them, and it wasn’t necessarily fair to us, either.”
Added Ryan: “We knew they dropped a lot in the rankings … and were going to be good. I think that got to us a little bit.”
Not in the match’s early stages, though. A focused and active Basalt side dominated possession in the first 20 minutes and generated a host of scoring opportunities – notably two corner kicks and a point-blank shot from Ryan, which drilled a goal post in the 19th minute.
He redeemed himself soon after, however, with a well-executed touch shot that fluttered over Telluride goalkeeper Brendan Kelley and into the net.
“Willy [Salamanca] was putting pressure on a defender and got a shot off that played off the goalie’s gloves. I saw how far the goalie was out, so I tried to just loft it up at the top of the net,” Ryan said. “It played to my advantage. … I was speechless.”
The Longhorns were punchless from there, however. They failed to tack on another goal toward the end of the opening half against a visibly fatigued Miners side, then struggled mightily during a tense final 40 minutes.
“They definitely had more intensity than us in the second half,” Ryan admitted. “We got really frantic. Our defense was freaking out, our offense was freaking out. We weren’t pushing up as much as we usually do. We were playing scared. … We’ve never really done that.”
Added Hayes: “For a team that was essentially on the ropes at the end of the first half – so tired that they couldn’t even run – where they found the energy to play that hard I have no idea. … There was no reason for us to come out that flat. I don’t know what the deal was. It was probably one of the worst 20 minutes I’ve seen all season.”
Telluride nearly produced the equalizer on multiple occasions. In the 46th minute, one Miners player drilled the crossbar on a free kick. About 10 minutes later, a failed Basalt clear resulted in an open shot; Longhorns goalkeeper Adrian Lujan dove and made an acrobatic save.
With little more than two minutes remaining, Telluride’s Slator Aplin found himself all alone mere feet from the goal line, but he booted the ball well high of the net.
“I figure that was only fair – we missed a lot of those,” Hayes joked. “The pressure of the moment gets to you. I’m sure that guy was like, ‘Holy cow, I’m this close and I have a sweet, amazing shot’ and got too hyped up. That’s the way it goes.
“In the end, it’s probably better to play a better team in the first round. … We played well, but we still need to learn how to finish. We left at least three goals out there.”
They only needed one to extend their season.
“We started playing our game [toward the end], got some control and pulled it out,” Ryan said. “That’s something we have to keep being able to do.”
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