Skiers beat Rams in OT |

Skiers beat Rams in OT

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

The Armstrong-to-Graber connection has proven deadly this spring for the Aspen girls soccer team. Monday, the duo hooked up once more in Carbondale, securing a victory in the Skiers’ final tune-up before Thursday’s all-important trip to Vail Mountain School.

Annie Graber headed home a well-placed corner from Tati Armstrong about two minutes into the first five-minute extra period, propelling Aspen to a 1-0 win over Roaring Fork.

The Skiers currently are 10-1-3 overall and 7-0-1 in a tightly bunched 3A Region 3 conference – good for first place. They can lock up a league crown with a victory in Thursday’s regular-season finale against the Gore Rangers.

After a long week highlighted by consecutive draws against conference heavyweights Basalt and Coal Ridge, Aspen head coach John Gillies said Monday amounted to a must win.

“These last three games on the grass were really tough for us. We needed a win before we went to Vail,” he added. “We’re glad we got the result.”

The Skiers were tested throughout in their friendly with a Rams team they topped, 2-1, in the squads’ first meeting March 13. Playing a fourth game in seven days appeared to take its toll on the visitors.

“We were very, very sluggish. We looked tired,” Gillies admitted. “We just weren’t creating that many chances – I think we had one good opportunity the whole game. … Honestly, it was painful to watch in place, like watching pinball with the ball going back and forth. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.”

Gillies and company had to wait more than 80 minutes to pull this one out. Then, Armstrong and Graber helped Aspen avoid a fourth draw this spring. The scene was eerily reminiscent of March 15’s home game against Basalt, when Graber headed an Armstrong corner into the back of the net to break a one-all tie. The Skiers went on to win, 4-1, besting their downvalley rivals for the first time since 2006.

Now, all eyes will be on Vail.

Should the Skiers come up short against VMS, a team that blanked Aspen 1-0 on April 11, things could get complicated. Coal Ridge, second in the league at 5-0-2 entering Monday’s game with struggling Vail Christian, visits Basalt in other action Thursday.

Gillies doesn’t expect the league crown to come down to a confusing tiebreaker.

“We’re going to win in Vail,” Gillies asserted. “I’m confident. The girls have gotten over so many hurdles and so many barriers. I think the girls deserve to win it. They know what’s at stake, and they’ve worked hard enough to reap the rewards.”

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