Soccer: Coal Ridge stands tall against Basalt |

Soccer: Coal Ridge stands tall against Basalt

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Michael Appelgate/The Aspen TimesThe Longhorns' Tori Kungli, left, fights for possession with Coal Ridge's Zoe Reece on Thursday afternoon at Basalt High School.

BASALT – Coal Ridge did its part. Unfortunately, it was not enough to clinch a fourth consecutive 3A Region 3 crown.

The Titans entered Thursday afternoon’s regular-season finale in Basalt needing a victory coupled with an Aspen loss at Vail Mountain School to secure another conference title. Coal Ridge was methodical against an injury-riddled Longhorns side, pulling ahead late in the first half and dominating the final 40 minutes en route to a 2-0 win.

The Titans (11-1-3 overall, 6-0-2 conference) had to settle for second place, however. Little more than an hour after the action wrapped in the midvalley, the Skiers scored in the waning moments of double overtime to pull out a 4-3 victory.

That’s just fine with Coal Ridge coach Brian Blair.

“I told the girls that no matter what happened today, we were going to get a home playoff game by finishing first or second. They did what they had to do,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. I was pleased with the effort, and that’s all we could control.”

The Titans sure played with a sense of urgency on this blustery afternoon. They missed a few prime scoring chances during a tight and physical opening half, and then pulled ahead about 5 minutes, 42 seconds before halftime. Forward Alicia Cokley shook free on a run up the far side of the pitch, paused briefly and fired a sharp liner past charging Basalt goalkeeper Emmalee Erickson.

In the 56th minute, Coal Ridge all but put this one out of reach. Allie Ehlers lofted a corner into a crowded box, and teammate Rebecca Mitchell pounced and headed the ball into the back of the net.

“Becca has three corner-kick goals this year off headers. She’s good at it,” Blair said. “When it’s 1-0, it only takes one (to tie). When the lead is two, you have to get one, then another. Mentally, that’s hard for another team.

“This is the best we’ve played all year. … We played with athleticism at the beginning of the year. Now, we’re starting to look like a soccer team. It’s taken a while, but now I feel like we know where we want to go with the ball – it creates a lot of chances.”

The Longhorns (7-6-2, 6-3), meanwhile, could generate nothing on offense during a decidedly sluggish final half.

“We’re young and we don’t have a big bench yet, and injuries really hurt us today,” said Longhorns head coach Makenzie Eshelman, whose team was blanked, 6-0, Monday against 4A Glenwood Springs. “We’ve had five players sitting in every practice. With five starters out, that leaves six practicing, and one is the goalie. … We need to get healthy, then focus on getting the offense going.”

Added Blair: “We played well, organized defense. Katie King is so good. In the first game, we let her run around wherever she wanted. This game, she had somebody with her every time, so at least we made her play with pressure. We showed a lot of growth from a couple weeks ago.”

Not all is lost for Basalt: By virtue of VMS’ loss, the Longhorns secured Region 3’s fourth and final playoff spot.

Postseason brackets will be released Sunday.

“I told the girls to be prepared to go to Denver,” Eshelman said. “I’m going to give them the whole weekend off, probably next week until Wednesday. Ice and rest, that’s all we can do. We’re mentally prepared, just not the bodies.”

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