Gore Rangers golden in Aspen
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Seemingly energized, Vail Mountain School Tony Ryerson leapt from the turf and raised both arms before being mobbed by teammates.
Aspen goalkeeper Alex Owen crouched with hands on his knees as he stared hopelessly at the ball resting in the bottom right corner on the net.
It took 89 physical, suspense-filled minutes Saturday afternoon at Aspen, but the Gore Rangers finally broke through. Team captains Carder Lamb and Ryerson connected for a long-awaited first goal that proved to be golden as VMS pulled out a 1-0, double-overtime victory that left it exhilarated and the Skiers deflated.
“It was worth every minute,” Ryerson said. “It was a perfect pass. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
With less than one minute remaining in the second five-minute overtime, Lamb stood over the ball from 30 yards out after a Skiers penalty. Ryerson said he figured Lamb would take a shot ” until the two locked eyes.
Owen watched as Ryerson charged and Lamb lobbed a cross into the box.
“I saw the high ball coming in, and just as soon as one our player was coming in, their player was coming in faster,” the senior keeper said. “They got to the ball first.”
Ryerson found an opening, stretched out and acrobatically headed the ball into the vacant near corner.
So much for a draw. So much for Aspen’s hopes of halting its two-game skid against the Gore Rangers.
“Man, I’m worn out,” said a relieved VMS coach Bob Bandoni. “We can’t pretend like we had any great magic. It was an even game that could’ve gone either way.”
Both teams made bids for the lead during a first half in which Aspen (6-3-1 overall, 4-2-1 3A Slope) and the Gore Rangers (3-6-1, 2-4-1) spent prolonged stretches deep in each other’s ends. Ryerson had an open look from the top of the box in the sixth minute but hit the crossbar.
The shots kept coming. Aspen forward Dillon Travers shook free from a defender inside the box in the 22nd minute, but VMS keeper Sean Minett smothered the shot.
It would be a familiar sight.
“We absolutely gave ourselves chances to finish. It’s the same old story,” Skiers head coach Junior Sutherland said. “Maybe the pressure gets to them. They never seem to come through in big games. It comes down to having composure in front of the goal, and we just don’t got it.”
Had it not been for a recent hip replacement, Sutherland would have been pacing during a five-minute stretch midway through the second in which his team repeatedly fired on Minett to no avail.
Aspen’s Will Bloemsma uncorked a wide-open shot from the top of the box in the 59th minute that sailed a few feet high. Less than a minute later, forward Jesus Meza’s shot from close range bounded off Minnett and directly to teammate Murphy Fyrwald; Minnett alertly sprinted back in time to corral Fyrwald’s header.
“It’s got to come, doesn’t it,” Sutherland said after the exchange.
With less than two minutes to play in regulation, Skiers senior Kyle Lusk broke free behind the VMS defense, controlled a cross and fired on goal; the shot sailed inches wide of the right post.
Lusk’s frustrations continued in the first overtime when his attempt to lob a shot over a charging Minnett flew over the crossbar.
The Gore Rangers had a close call of their own one minute later when a corner kick bounced off Lamb’s thigh near the goal line and hit the crossbar.
The whistle sounded seconds later.
“Every time we spoke, we spoke less about X’s and O’s than we did playing as a unit,” Bandoni said. “We wanted to make sure to drive the ball up and play as much as we can in their half.”
That offensive pressure produced an open look for Robert Fitz with 2:50 remaining in the second overtime. When the shot bounded off the right post, it seemed as if both teams for destined for a draw.
Lamb and Ryerson changed VMS’ fortunes in little more than two seconds.
“Those games are tough, especially when you’re holding a clean sheet the whole game,” Owen said. “They got a good break.”
That break gives the Gore Rangers a second win in their last three games after going winless in their previous five. Now, postseason aspirations don’t seem too far-fetched, Ryerson said.
“This is great for the confidence and it still gives us a chance,” he added. “We couldn’t afford the tie. We needed the win.”
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