Titans girls soccer splits opening games against Aspen and Basalt

“We seem to have a lot of attacking power which is nice”

By Than Acuff

With one day of practice on grass and the rest of their workouts in the gym, the Crested Butte Titans girls soccer team hit the road last weekend. They opened the season with games against Aspen and Basalt, taking down Aspen in overtime on Friday, March 10, but falling to Basalt the very next day.

Both opponents offered tough challenges for the Titans last year, so coach Heather Culley was looking forward to the test for her Titans at the start of this season.

“Last year Aspen was a pretty tight game, and we knew Basalt had some speed up top,” says Culley.

Culley was missing one of her starting centerbacks for the weekend, but with such a deep bench from the seniors down to the freshmen, the Titans still had plenty of weapons and senior Mara Pennie in net.

“We’re really trying to focus our game on our three centermids,” says Culley. “We seem to have a lot of attacking power which is nice.”

That attacking power was on display in the opening 25 minutes of their game against Aspen as Crested Butte jumped out to a 4-0 lead. 

Ellie O’Neal started the scoring, poking the ball past the Aspen keeper off an assist from India Nornes. Not long after, Teagan Turner set up Leigh Harpel for a goal, and then freshmen Nora Thomes and Molly Miller connected for the Titans’ third goal. Turner then set up Harpel again and Crested Butte was up 4-0, 25 minutes into the game.

“The first 20 minutes we were in complete control and looked great,” says Culley.

But a shortage of outside practices started to show on the Titans as full-field fatigue set in. A misplayed goal kick fell right to the feet of an Aspen player, and she scored. Aspen struck once more before the half’s end to pull back into the game. Aspen then scored two more over the course of the second half to tie the game 4-4 and send it into overtime. 

“I was seeing a lot of fatigue and when we got tired, we stopped communicating,” says Culley. “It was strange though, they were really excited we were going into overtime and they came out like they did in the first half.”

The Titans eventually sealed the win as Harpel finished off her hat trick, taking the ball from midfield to strike from just outside the 18-yard box.

Crested Butte returned to action on Saturday to face the Basalt Longhorns, but fell behind 1-0 despite quality play. Their effort on the field eventually paid off as Miller ran onto a through ball from O’Neal to score and the teams were notched in a 1-1 tie at halftime.

“We were playing great,” says Culley. “There was really nothing to change.”

Basalt struck first again in the second half to go up 2-1, but Crested Butte tied the game back up when Harpel finished off a penalty kick. Basalt responded minutes later though and held on to hand the Titans a 3-2 loss.

“We just weren’t able to score when we needed to,” says Culley.

The Titans continue non-league play this week, and have their first home game of the season when they host Colorado Springs Christian on Saturday, March 18 at the Katy O. Rady Field on the Western Colorado University campus. Kick off for the varsity squad is at 11 a.m., weather dependent of course.

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