Soccer: Late goal lifts Basalt in state opener |

Soccer: Late goal lifts Basalt in state opener

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim RyanBasalt's Ivano Del Piccolo celebrates after Friday's victory over Pagosa Springs in the first round of the 3A state tournament in Arvada.

ARVADA, Colo. – When he finds himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Sean Ryan admits that he gets distracted and often “hears footsteps.”

This time, however, the Basalt soccer team’s senior forward was not about to squander a golden opportunity.

“I knew it needed to happen,” Ryan said. “It was win or go home, and I had to step up.”

The ninth-seeded Longhorns sure are happy he did. With 30 seconds remaining in a scoreless 3A state playoff opener with No. 24 Pagosa Springs in Arvada, Ryan sidestepped a defender and found himself all alone about 10 yards out. He took a touch and drilled a left-footed shot that clipped the net, igniting a celebration on the field and on the Basalt bench.

Survive and advance.

“I can’t really explain it. I started screaming and sprinting toward teammates and giving them hugs,” Ryan joked. “When that final whistle blew, I was beyond relieved. We cut it close.”

Added head coach Brent Hayes, “I was hoping we didn’t go to overtime. It was really stressful.”

And frustratingly familiar. Despite outplaying the Pirates from the outset, the Longhorns squandered multiple scoring chances – including two that deflected off the post in the opening half.

The issue has plagued Basalt all season. In their four losses, the Longhorns scored just three times.

“Once our shots started going amiss, it gets nerve-wracking,” Ryan said. “They only had a few opportunities all game, but two of them were really close. In the final 20 minutes, we were frantic for 10 and then finally got control in the last 10.”

Basalt received some help, too. An attempted Pagosa Springs clear in the final minute sailed directly to Willy Salamanca. The senior worked his way across the field, then launched a through-ball to Ryan.

He had one defender to beat.

“The defender was coming in way hot, so I cut back at the last second,” Ryan said. “I took one touch and then hit it with my left. It felt fantastic. I don’t know why.

“It’s strange, but in warm-ups I can never shoot with my left. In games, it comes naturally. … It’s definitely a good feeling to keep the season alive as a senior.”

The task gets tougher at 1 p.m. today, when the Longhorns take the pitch against host and No. 8 seed Faith Christian. The Eagles secured their spot in the round of 16 with a 4-0 win over No. 25 Fountain Valley in earlier action Friday.

“We watched the first half of their game, and they’re all enormous. They have a center who looks like he’s 6-foot-4,” said Hayes, whose team escaped the first round with a 1-0 win last year against Telluride, and then advanced to the quarterfinals. “We have our work cut out for us. The more we limit the corner kicks, the better off we’re going to be. We should keep it close.”

Ryan said the pressure is off.

“In the first round, you’re a top-10 team against the 24th seed. Now, you’re not expected to win,” he said. “We have to prove we have what it takes. I’m so stoked. You don’t really ever get the chance to play the (reigning) state champions.”

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