Vail Mountain shocks No. 1 Basalt
BASALT, Colorado ” After his players left the pitch Saturday, Basalt girls soccer coach Chris Woods crossed midfield to address Vail Mountain School’s celebrating players and coaches.
“You guys deserved it today,” Woods said. “You played a great game. Thanks for kicking our butts.”
It was a bizarre exchange that summed up the most shocking upset this season in the 3A Western Slope ” VMS 5, Basalt 4.
VMS didn’t just give Basalt, ranked No. 1 in the state by the Rocky Mountain News, its first league loss. It did so in the most unbelievable way, netting five goals against a defense that had allowed just two in seven previous league wins.
Those five goals came on just seven shots, the last three scores coming in the final 20 minutes after Basalt took a 4-2 lead off Melissa Stewart’s second goal. Gore Rangers forward Kaitlin Zdechlik one-timed a blast for her second goal with just 15 minutes to go to pull her team within one.
Mia Bandoni then tied the game in the 78th minute when she lined a free kick over a wall of Basalt defenders and the hands of Basalt goalie Dayne Toney.
In stoppage time, VMS made another run on Toney and was rewarded with a penalty kick after a bouncing ball hit the hand of a Basalt player. Molly Etters finished off the mighty Longhorns with the ensuing shot. The blast flew into the top right corner of the net, crossing up Toney, who guessed left, and set off an eruption of cheers from the visiting VMS contingent of parents.
Just seconds later, the final whistle blew.
“We came into the game today with the mentality that they’re still just high school girls like us,” Zdechlik said. “They still go to class everyday, just like us.”
“I don’t think it came into anyone’s mind that it was over, even when we were down, 4-2,” Etters added. “Everyone was of one mind, and we didn’t back down.”
Woods didn’t mince words in his postgame remarks.
“The girls were thinking about prom too much, and not thinking about the game,” he said flatly. “It was a close game, and we didn’t want to lose, but we didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t do the things we were supposed to do. We didn’t clear the ball, didn’t finish runs, missed (penalty kicks) and missed breakaways. We’re never going to get anywhere if we play like that.”
Echoes of Colorado Academy
The last time a VMS team knocked off the No. 1 team in the state was in October of 2000 when the boys team upset Colorado Academy, 3-1, in the state playoffs.
While the loss made the Gore Rangers season, it was a wake-up call to the Longhorns, who, until Saturday, had been on cruise control. Basalt (11-2, 7-1 3A Western Slope) shut out all but rival Aspen its previous seven league wins, outscoring the opposition, 40-2.
The Longhorns, even with two games to go, are assured of their 11th league title because of those seven wins. Coal Ridge ” with five league wins, two losses and two ties ” can lock up the 3A Slope’s second playoff spot Tuesday with a win over Roaring Fork in its season finale.
Aspen and VMS also finish the regular season Tuesday, and, with just three league losses and one tie apiece, either could overtake Coal Ridge if the Titans stumble ” depending on tiebreaker scenarios. The Skiers finish with Rangely while VMS will see Basalt again on its home turf in East Vail.
The Longhorns certainly didn’t feel like celebrating another league title Saturday after the deflating loss. After Woods addressed his team, players stalked off the field quietly.
For a team accustomed to getting up early and putting the pressure on opponents, things didn’t get off to a good start.
In the ninth minute, Zdechlik hit a corner kick into the Basalt box that Harper Kaufman got a foot on and knocked past Toney.
Basalt knotted up the game in the 15th minute when sophomore Noel Chiarelli scored off an assist from Jamie Matherly. Stewart put Basalt up in the 22nd minute when she stopped and fired from about 30 yards out, lofting a shot over the head of VMS goalie Elsie Macsata.
With just two minutes to go in the half, Basalt was awarded its first of two penalty kicks, but Kat Fitzpatrick pushed her shot wide left. The mistake proved costly.
After a goal from Annette Stenstadvold put Basalt up, 3-1, early in the second half, Zdechlik answered right back with a blast from the top of the Basalt goal box to pull the Gore Rangers back within one.
Stewart buried the Longhorns’ second penalty kick in the 55th minute to push the lead back to two before VMS mounted its improbable rally.
“Playing Basalt, you know coming in that you’re playing a team steeped in history that is currently the best team in the league, and deservedly so,” Gore Rangers coach Bob Bandoni said. “You’ve got to be in your best form to play with them. Today was about playing as disciplined as we can and with confidence on the attack. We wanted to try to find feet and not push things.”
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