Last-minute goal lifts Titans over Aspen |

Last-minute goal lifts Titans over Aspen

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Coal Ridge keeper Brooke Esgar goes up for a save against Claire O'Sullivan (3) and the Skiers on Thursday at Aspen School District Stadium.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times |

ASPEN — Mariela Martinez turned frustration into elation for the Coal Ridge High School girls soccer team Thursday afternoon — with the tap of a toe.

Martinez rolled in the game-winning goal in the final minute to give the visiting Titans a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Skiers at Aspen School District Stadium in a match for the Class 3A/2A Western Slope League lead.

“We had a bunch of opportunities, and I was really frustrated with us not following through [and getting a goal],” said Martinez, a senior. “It was a beautiful 1-2 from Jenny [Call]. I honestly thought it was going to be wide.”

But it wasn’t.

The ball rolled into the Aspen net, breaking a 1-1 stalemate as the back-and-forth match appeared heading for overtime action.

“The biggest thing is to stay composed, like coach says,” she said of the game-winning shot after the Titans broke through a fatiguing Aspen defense, which had managed to hold off the explosive Titans at bay for the bulk of the match.

“It’s heartbreaking for our girls,” Aspen coach John Gillies said after the Skiers matched the No. 8-ranked Titans on the field turf in Aspen. “A minute before the end … you’re just trying to hold on and regroup in overtime.”

Instead, Martinez and the Titans finished a comeback victory and retained their status atop the conference while clinching one of the league’s two automatic berths in the Class 3A state playoffs.

“The girls responded well,” Coal Ridge coach Micah Herron said. “We were able to dictate play a bit and control the ball, but we couldn’t find the net.”

Crediting Aspen’s stout defense, Herron said the Coal Ridge coaches encouraged the Titans to stay with the game plan and keep attacking after a scoreless first half.

But first, the Titans would have to come from behind after Aspen’s Arley Gordon scored for the Skiers when she redirected a rebound of a direct kick from teammate Melody Lemke.

Gordon’s goal produced a short-lived 1-0 lead for the Skiers with 30 minutes to play.

“We were able to respond and get the tying goal,” Herron said of Sam Dunn’s goal for the Titans two minutes later after taking a crossing pass from Martinez. “That kind of puts the pressure back on them a little bit.”

With the score 1-1, the Titans threatened to score again but a close-in shot sailed over the Aspen crossbar — one of 17 shots for the Titans.

The Skiers counterattacked with Logan McNamee and Erin Spence, but Coal Ridge keeper Brooke Esgar turned back the last of the Aspen offerings.

The Skiers finished with eight shots against league-leading Coal Ridge.

Another Coal Ridge shot rolled just wide left after a Titans’ corner kick from Molly Mello.

“They [Titans] were frustrated; they were frustrated with themselves; they were frustrated with our play,” Herron said. “Going from grass to turf is always a little difficult.”

But the Titans, he said, worked through their issues.

“They were composed. They rose above it. And thankfully, the ball bounced our way,” Herron said as the Titans climbed to 10-3-0 overall, 8-0-0 in league.

“They did put us under a lot of pressure in the second half,” Gillies said. “We held them off. But their second goal was definitely coming the longer we stayed on the field.”

The loss in the physical matchup left several of the Skiers in tears, Gillies said.

“It shows they care. They fought with a lot of passion,” Gillies said of the AHS girls (9-3-0 overall, 6-3-0 in league). “Our girls will be able to take a lot out of this game. Coal Ridge is a strong team all around.”

The Titans are scheduled to host Vail Christian on Saturday.

Aspen will play at Basalt on Tuesday.

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