Mustangs run wild on Sailors lacrosse

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The Steamboat Springs girls lacrosse team was scheduled to have enough players to field a team for Saturday's game -- but that didn't happen.

When the first Saturday of spring break rolled around, the 16 who signed up had dwindled to fewer than 10, and the Sailors were shorthanded against Colo--rado Academy, one of the state's top lacrosse programs.

Help came in the way of the girls soccer team. Minutes after winning their game Saturday, Kirsten Ryan, Nicole Balvanz and Miranda Schrock put their soccer cleats back on and got a quick tutorial on throwing and catching a lacrosse ball.

By stepping in, they enabled Steamboat to field a team and at least get an exhibition of sorts in against Colorado Academy, which went on to win 22-0, at the Steamboat Springs High School football field.

Marykate Nerney was the only senior playing in Saturday's game, forcing a group of mostly freshmen and sophomores -- and soccer players -- to try to keep up with the Mustangs.

"That's the future of our program," Steamboat coach Kevin Nerney said.

He added that many of his young players hadn't so much as picked up a lacrosse stick before practice began several months ago. Although Steamboat's stick skills were behind that of Colorado Academy's, the team has come far in a short time.

"They have done so well," Marykate Nerney said about the younger players. "Their improvement from the first day is amazing. It's definitely been a challenge for them."

Kristen Elliott was one of the freshmen in attendance who had no prior lacrosse experience. She said an introduction to the sport at the middle school level would have been helpful.

Starting a junior high program, much like the successful one up and running on the boys' side, would provide the varsity team with players already familiar with stick skills and the rules. Freshmen with no experience are rarely thrown in the varsity mix in any other sport.

The girls lacrosse team resumes play at 4 p.m. April 25 at the high school against Thomas Jefferson.

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