Stewart nets three, Basalt tops VMS |

Stewart nets three, Basalt tops VMS

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” As wet snow fell Saturday afternoon at Basalt High School, a Longhorns soccer player turned to the home bench as she jogged toward midfield.

“I can’t feel my arms,” she yelled to coach Makenzie Eshelman.

“It’s a good thing you don’t need them for soccer,” the coach quipped.

The only thing Basalt needed against Vail Mountain School was Melissa Stewart’s right leg.

The senior, the presumptive front-runner for 3A Western Slope player of the year, baffled Gore Rangers goalkeeper Lily Grisafi all game, striking for three goals on a wet, frigid afternoon. The Longhorns tacked on two more scores in the game’s final 20 minutes and cruised to a 5-2 victory ” their fifth in seven games this season.

“Once the girls woke up, we started to pick things up,” Eshelman said. “[Stewart] is a nice scoring factor. It’s good to have her on our side.”

VMS dominated at the outset, controlling the midfield and generating multiple good looks on the offensive end. The pressure produced a corner kick in the 14th minute; Misha Harrison lined up for the attempt, then passed short to a nearby teammate who launched a shot that rattled the crossbar and nearly crossed the goal line as it plummeted to the grass.

Stewart delivered a counter punch. As Basalt pushed the ball up the field on the ensuing possession, she shook free in the middle, controlled a pass and alertly flicked a soft shot over Grisafi and under the bar.

“We really started to find that synergy on all three levels of the field. Unfortunately, we had some problems in the back that resulted in goals,” Gore Rangers head coach Bob Bandoni said. “They’re a good team. When you make a mistake, they really make you pay.

“[Stewart’s] a good player. She wants the ball at her feet, and she punishes you if you step in.”

A botched Basalt clear yielded an open look for VMS’ Sally Ryerson in the 21st minute; she confidently launched a shot past Longhorns goalkeeper Jamie Matherly to tie the game. Soon after, referees huddled and contemplated calling the game because of deteriorating field conditions and the threat of more inclement weather.

Bandoni urged them to keep playing.

Stewart likely made him regret that decision.

She took on a defender in the 25th minute, generated some open space with a quick move to the inside and went low for the goal.

Stewart stretched the lead to 3-1 in the 51st minute when she outrun the defense up the left side, then lofted a shot over on-rushing Grisafi.

“I’m never surprised by what she does,” Eshelman said of Stewart. “She has so much talent that I think she can do just about whatever she wants. … Getting the ball to her definitely helps the whole team.”

Annette Stenstadvold and Jackie Argueta gave the Longhorns some breathing room in the final 20 minutes, as heavy snow blanketed the pitch. Stenstadvold played a give-and-go with Zoe Herreid on a corner kick in the 60th minute, spotted a seam between two defenders and fired a shot into the near corner.

Argueta knocked in a one-timer off a pass from Julia Kaputska with less than two minutes remaining to stretch the lead to 5-2.

“Besides being a little cold, we were pretty confident when we came out of halftime. I think that was the best burst of soccer we’ve had,” Eshelman said. “We were passing and communicating well and were the aggressor instead of trying to defend. … We played more like the team I know and love.”

Kelli Lindsay, who Tuesday scored the decisive goal in VMS’ 2-1 win in Aspen, fired a strong shot off Matherly’s gloves and into the net with seven minutes to play. The Gore Rangers generated few open looks down the stretch, however.

“We’d like to be on the other side of the scoreboard … but we wanted to experience a higher level of soccer. You could see that,” Bandoni said. “We’re never really worried about results. For us, the measure is the quality of play. … We leave here with something to build on.”

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