Soccer: Denver Christian ousts Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Aspen High girls soccer coach John Gillies was hoping his squad would make at least two trips to the Front Range in the near future.
Instead, his Skiers will be staying home.
Last week, Aspen secured its first 3A Region 3 crown since 1998. Wednesday, its pursuit of a first-ever state championship was derailed.
The 11th-seeded Skiers appeared overmatched in their postseason opener with visiting No. 22 Denver Christian. They surrendered a goal early in the second half, and the Crusaders tacked on two more down the stretch en route to a convincing 3-0 victory.
“The better team won. The stronger team won,” Gillies admitted afterward. “Maybe we need to play more Denver teams so we know what’s happening. If they were 22nd and fourth in their league, well …
“We lost focus. Their heads weren’t on the field; they were in other places, but I’m not quite sure where.”
Aspen (11-2-3) was flat from the outset on this warm, cloudless afternoon. It produced just two prime scoring opportunities in the first 40 minutes: During a 10-second stretch, Annie Graber had a shot deflected, then she launched the rebound off the far post.
“I thought it was going to go in. It was a great save by the goalie,” Graber said. “I think we were just tired today. I think we did all we could really do, but we just let our guard down a little bit.”
The Crusaders (7-6-3) took advantage. Junior midfielder Jerika Schmitt slipped past the defense in the 47th minute and headed a well-placed cross through Skiers goalkeeper Sally McGuren’s gloves.
“That first goal is huge in playoff soccer, and we got it. It could’ve gone either way,” Denver Christian coach Brad Homan said. “It gave us a little bit of confidence.”
Added Gillies: “I personally don’t know how it’s possible that the girl could be standing on the goal line and head the ball and not be offside. … Once again, it was a defensive mistake by us. We should never have tried dribbling it there. When that first one went in, you could see their heads drop. We panicked. We lost focus.”
It proved costly. Crusaders freshman Alyssa LeFebre knifed through two defenders, then slipped a low liner past McGuren in the 65th minute.
Not long after, Christina Drost fired a shot from a seemingly impossible angle in the far corner that clipped the net and all but put the game out of reach.
“There were certainly a few schoolgirl errors out there,” Gillies said. “They really read what we did in the first half and changed their style of play to compensate.”
“Mostly, we wanted to possess a little bit at the midfield before we went over the top,” Homan added. “In the first half, the first ball we got we played over the top. In the second, we said, ‘OK, maybe we should try to play two or three passes in the middle, then go.’ I don’t know if we did that all that well, but we got a couple breaks going forward.”
Aspen had no such luck. Sophomore Shannon Waititi had an open look that would’ve pulled the Skiers to within one, but it promptly was smothered by Denver Christian goalkeeper Leesha Gunnink mere steps from the goal line. Not long after, Gunnink skied and swatted a shot from Graber over the crossbar.
Aspen could muster little else offensively against a battle-tested Crusaders side that has squared off with nine of the state tournament’s 32 teams, including six of the top 10 seeds.
“We played games we knew we were going to win, games we knew we were going to lose and games we knew were going to be a battle,” Homan said. “We wanted to play the best teams we could find. It was a little bit rough going through that schedule, but it helps now. Now is when you want to win.”
Denver Christian will head to Colorado Springs on Saturday to take on No. 6 Classical Academy, a 5-0 winner over No. 27 Trinidad in other action Wednesday.
The Skiers, meanwhile, will be left savoring their league title but wondering what could’ve been.
“This is tough, but I think we did all we could really do today,” Graber said. “I couldn’t be prouder of my team.”
The Basalt girls soccer team’s season came to an end Wednesday afternoon at the feet of eighth-seeded Colorado Academy in the first round of the 3A state playoffs.
The Mustangs (10-4-2) scored three times in each half and cruised past the No. 25 Longhorns, 6-0.
“It wasn’t very one-sided as it seemed,” Basalt head coach Makenzie Eshelman said. “We had a bunch of chances, but we couldn’t finish. We beat ourselves more than they beat us.”
Colorado Academy got on the board 10 minutes into the contest, then scored two more goals with 3 minutes left in the first half.
A fourth goal came shortly into the second, and the Mustangs slipped two more through in the waning minutes to put this one out of reach.
“Little mistakes cost us big today,” Eshelman said. “(Colorado Academy) is a very skilled team, but they were no better than what we faced this year in our league.”
Eshelman said her team missed more than a handful of chances – including two free kicks and two breakaways. Also, Basalt squandered a number of corner-kick opportunities.
The Longhorns finish the season 7-7-2.
“I’m bummed that its over, but it was a successful season overall,” Eshelman said.
– By Michael Appelgate
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Winter sports practices were officially allowed to begin last week, Jan. 18, after the Colorado High School Activities Association was given a variance from the state’s health officials. Games were allowed to be played starting this week.