Titans top rival Basalt
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BASALT, Colorado – Coal Ridge girls soccer coach Brian Blair said his squad has been a little out of sorts since April 5’s loss to Vail Mountain School. He felt his team needed to find some way to generate momentum for the late-season push.
A visit to Basalt on Tuesday seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“I love this game. … I’m glad they’re on the schedule two times a year,” Blair said. “When we play these guys, we up our level because we respect them so much. And we know that if we don’t play our best, we could easily get [blown out].”
The Titans were up to the challenge on a frigid afternoon at Basalt High School. They vaulted into the lead with two first-half goals, withstood a Longhorns rally and came up with a save on a penalty kick in the waning minutes to preserve a 3-2 victory – their second straight road win over Basalt.
“I think we were ready. Our focus was definitely that ‘We’ve got to win. We’ve got to win,'” said Coal Ridge sophomore Kelsey Fauser, who led all scorers with two goals. “This is definitely going to help us see how much potential we have.”
The Titans (8-2 overall) were the aggressors at the outset Tuesday, beating the Longhorns to the majority of the loose balls and generating some prime scoring chances in the opening half.
Senior Carly Cloninger capitalized in the 23rd minute, heading home a corner kick a few steps from the near post; Basalt goalkeeper Cira Mylott appeared to be well positioned for the save, but the wet ball slipped off one of her gloves and into the net.
Fauser stretched the lead to two about four minutes to the break, sidestepping a defender on a run up the sideline and ripping a line drive that clipped the far corner.
“I think they were out of it. They were a little nervous, and they were playing scared,” Longhorns coach Makenzie Eshelman said of her players. “Our touch was off, and we couldn’t pass to save our lives.”
That changed in the early moments of the second half, however. Basalt (7-2 overall) pushed the pace and pressured a Coal Ridge squad that was missing four players because of suspension or eligibility issues.
The lack of depth took its toll. The Longhorns’ Tori Kungli took on a group of Titans defenders in the 51st minute, came away with the ball and beat freshman goalkeeper Brittany Young.
Less than four minutes later, Basalt’s Stephanie Alvarado out-muscled a Coal Ridge defender for a loose ball, then turned and fired a shot past Young.
“They kicked our butt with conditioning,” Blair said. “We looked flat tired. If we didn’t get that goal on the counter, I don’t how that game would’ve gone.”
The Titans relinquished the lead for less than 30 seconds. On the possession after Alvarado’s goal, Fauser answered right back with an acrobatic, left-footed score from a difficult angle.
“I saw the goalie coming out, so I tried to go around her and went too far left. I decided to take a shot anyway,” Fauser said. “I looked up and was in awe that it went in.”
Added Eshelman: “The ball skipped off the head [of one of our defenders] … and got through. It happens. That definitely changes momentum, but we fought hard. We had a lot of chances.”
The Longhorns’ best scoring chance came in the final minute. During a battle for possession in the Coal Ridge box, a whistle was blown. The Titans bench erupted, assuming the game was over.
Instead, a few minutes of confusion ensued as the three referees huddled. Ultimately, they whistled a Coal Ridge player for a hand-ball and awarded a penalty kick to Basalt.
“I didn’t see it, so I wasn’t going to yell,” Blair admitted. “I figured if they called a PK, there must’ve been [a penalty].”
Young bailed her squad out. She guessed right, lunged and deflected Kungli’s shot. Alvarado had a clear look on goal after corralling the deflection, but her attempt sailed well high.
“That’s the second year in a row we’ve blocked a PK here,” Blair said. “That shouldn’t really happen.”
The final whistle sounded soon after.
“It was standard procedure. Both teams battled hard, and you never know who is going to take it,” Eshelman said. “That first half just killed us.”
The Titans visit Colorado Rocky Mountain School at 4 p.m. Thursday, while the Longhorns host Rangely at 4 p.m. Friday.
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