EAST VAIL - Aspen's Yoseline Ayala was in a bubble Thursday and the Skiers rode that bubble to their first 3A Western Slope title since 1998 with a 4-3 soccer win in double overtime against the Vail Mountain School at Bandoni Alumni Field.
In the process, VMS, which was on the playoff bubble, saw its postseason hopes burst.
Ayala scored in the waning seconds of the second extra frame, knocking in a shot during a mad scramble at the VMS goal mouth.
"It feels amazing," Ayala said. "I felt like I was in my own little bubble."
And though Aspen has been a constant in the postseason mix for years, the Skiers claimed their first league title since the Clinton administration.
"This is such a huge, huge thing," Aspen coach John Gilles sad. "We have so many barriers in the spring. We have spring break, weather, so many sports. We don't have enough practice space. We practice in the gym. It's a magnificent, magnificent achievement."
To put some context into how long it's been since Aspen's captured the crown - the last time the Skiers won, Steamboat Springs finished second and Battle Mountain was third in the league table. (The Sailors and Huskies were 3A schools at the time, and the former ended up winning the state title.)
Goalie stays in
VMS needed a win Thursday to grab one of the Slope's four playoff spots. Though coach Bob Bandoni did not pull his goalie as he did in a similar situation on the final day of the season in the fall of 1998 against Battle Mountain - the Huskies' Alberto Saenz scored an empty-netter to send his team to the playoffs that day - the Gore Rangers threw everything forward, but came up short.
"It was amazing the effort the team gave today," said VMS senior Sally Ryerson, who scored in the final minute of regulation to send the game into overtime. "We really played our heart out. It's really disappointing the way it ended, but the competitiveness that was out there was amazing. It was so much fun. Even though the score is what a lot of people remember, I'll just remember playing my heart out."
Aspen overcame deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 as well as the potentially-deflating Ryerson goal late.
"It's been like this all year," Gilles said somewhat jokingly.
Acacia Ortiz drew first blood for the Gore Rangers. Aspen's Annie Graber responded in the 38th minute. Just one minute later, VMS had a 2-1 halftime lead after Amy Sherman one-timed a Misha Harrison corner kick into the Skiers' net.
Anna Stevens pulled Aspen even again and then Haley Kramergave the Skiers the lead for the first time at 3-2 in the 70th minute. But the Ryerson family has haunted the Skiers for years and it wasn't over.
For three straight years from 2006-08, VMS' Tony Ryerson, Class of 2009, scored the game-winning goal in consecutive games against Aspen when the boys teams of both schools met in the fall. This spring, the Skiers went 11-1-3, and the only loss of the season was a 1-0 decision to VMS. And, yep, Sally Ryerson, VMS Class of 2012, scored that one.
So it was only natural that Sally score in the 79th minute Thursday for old time's sake.
"I don't know," she said. "I guess it's just my duty to keep up the family tradition."
But Ayala ended it in overtime.
Aspen is assured of a top-12 seed in the state tournament, whose bracket comes out on Sunday at chsaa.org. The Skiers will be home at least for the first round, which is Wednesday.
Meanwhile the Gore Rangers finished the season at 7-4-2. Thursday was the final game for VMS seniors Emily Bandoni, Harrison and Ryerson.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.