Turns out bad habits are hard to break, but all the nasty tendencies the Steamboat Springs boys lacrosse team picked up by spending weeks practicing in a gym are starting to wear off.
Occasionally, the Sailors will do something such as go after a groundball improperly on the grass field, giving coach Bob Hiester flashbacks of hardwood floors. But the boys are more than making up for those miscues with everything they are doing right.
With lacrosse in its third season as a varsity sport at Steamboat, its boys are looking the part of a team.
"We are playing so much better than we've ever been," Hiester said. "They'll only get better with the more games they play."
Steamboat picked up a 5-4 victory against Englewood on Wednesday on a firm, straw-littered Gardner Field. After pulling out to as much as a 4-0 lead in the first half, the Sailors allowed the Pirates to sneak back into the game in the second half.
Junior Danny Carlson, one of Steamboat's primary attackers, said the offense didn't force Englewood's defense to run enough in the second half, but the lone goal the Sailors did score in the game's final five minutes was the difference.
After going scoreless through the third quarter and the first half of the fourth, Hiester called timeout with five minutes left in the game. Thirteen seconds after breaking the huddle, Carlson scored the eventual game-winning goal from the left wing on an assist from Justin Howard.
"We just passed it around the perimeter to look for an open shot," Carlson said.
Steamboat was without starting midfielder Henry Howard who was sick. The Sailors also had to play much of the game without starting midfielder Harry Packer after he was injured early in the first quarter.
Both are important members of Steamboat's offense when it comes to scoring and controlling the ball, Hiester said. Howard and Packer's absence was more noticeable in the second half because the other midfielders were feeling the effects of increased minutes. During the first half, however, the Sailors' were running smoothly on offense.
"In the second period, we really got some good shots on goal," Hiester said.
Neither team scored in the first 12 minutes, but Steamboat spent nearly all of those 12 with the ball in its offensive zone.
Jake Flax finally got the scoring started for Steamboat at the 10:57 mark of the second quarter after he fired a rebound shot past Englewood's goalie. Carlson scored the first of his three goals less than a minute later after cutting through the middle of the defense to go low with his successful attempt.
Midfielder Colin Butler added another goal for the Sailors three minutes later on a deep shot from just inside the box.
Carlson wrapped up Steamboat's first-half scoring with 52 seconds left on a play that was started off a great pass from defenseman Vince Grippa. Carlson once again found a soft spot in the Pirates' defense near the net to score.
Englewood did all the scoring in the third quarter to get back in the game, but Carlson's goal at the 4:52 mark in the fourth lifted Steamboat to the win.
Goalies Leo Chea and Yoshi Yonekawa combined to make seven saves for the Sailors.
The Pirates scored two unanswered goals in the final four minutes but couldn't get a solid shot attempt off in the final seconds to tie.
Steamboat returns to action at 3 p.m. Saturday at Gardner Field. Steamboat hosts Monarch in the season finale for the Sailors.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail email@example.com