Longhorns impress in 3A state opener
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado – Salida made a careless mistake. Basalt forward Sebastian Liuzzi did not miss.
Spartans goalkeeper Derek Husvet opted to take a free kick far from his net in the fifth minute of Wednesday’s 3A playoff opener. The freshman’s ensuing boot was knocked down by the wind and rolled directly to Liuzzi, who gathered the ball and ripped a low liner into an empty goal.
Liuzzi and the 11th-seeded Longhorns’ offense were just heating up on a brisk afternoon at Eagle Valley High School. Basalt scored three times in the first 10 minutes, built a comfortable four-goal cushion at the break and were never tested en route to a dominant 5-0 victory over No. 22 Salida.
“I think it calmed some nerves to see the boys come out with that intensity,” Longhorns co-head coach Jackie Vosler said.
“[The fast start] wasn’t a surprise on the part of the boys … but a surprise considering what we expected coming into the game.”
Basalt coaches figured their squad would be tested by the Spartans (7-7). Salida hails from Region 2, arguably 3A’s toughest league, which includes two of the state tournament’s top four seeds – No. 1 Colorado Springs Christian and No. 4 The Classical Academy.
All pre-game concerns were assuaged in a matter of minutes, however.
“We really kept our heads cool after our last win,” Liuzzi said. “We tried not to think about the consequences and just play our game today. … When we got that first one, it just felt normal.
“That definitely took some weight off our shoulders, but we knew we could not let up.”
That was not a problem, as the Longhorns looked right at home on the Eagle Valley turf.
Sophomore Willy Salamanca somehow managed to slip behind the Spartans defense in the 34th minute. He drilled a shot that bounded off Husvet, then alertly headed home the deflection near the far post.
Little more than three minutes later, Salamanca lined a perfect through-ball up the middle of the pitch; teammate Santiago Marciani outran two defenders, tracked down the ball and went low for the score, stretching the lead to three.
“That No. 4 [Salamanca] was a crafty little player with a lot of determination,” Salida head coach Ben Oswald remarked. “Technically, they are good with the ball and have a good understanding of each other.”
Basalt (11-3-1) tacked on one more score in the 27th minute to all but put this game out of reach before halftime. Liuzzi provided the heroics once more, dribbling up the near side, then drilling a shot from about 20 yards out that seemingly caught the entire Spartans defense off guard and out of position.
The Longhorns added another goal in the 43rd minute, when Jacob Musser lobbed a free kick into the box that Salamanca knocked in.
They coasted from there.
Basalt has outscored opponents 13-1 in playoff openers the last two seasons.
“Was this really a five-nothing game? Only because we allowed it to be,” said Oswald, who started five freshman Wednesday. “Anyone who watched this game saw three glaring defensive mistakes. … They beat us, but we also beat ourselves.”
With the win, Basalt improved to 7-0-1 on the road this season. It hopes that trend continues in the Round of 16 Saturday in Colorado Springs. The Longhorns will square off with sixth-seeded St. Mary’s (9-5-2), who dispatched No. 27 Arrupe Jesuit, 3-1, in other first-round action Wednesday.
“I’m curious to see what’s ahead of us and excited to keep playing, to keep going,” Liuzzi said. “We need to keep our heads down and keep going as hard as we did today.”
Added Vosler: “When the boys show up and are on their game, they can play anyone.”
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