Steamboat men fall in opener

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The first time Eagle County and Steamboat Springs met in men's lacrosse, the former handily defeated the latter.

On Saturday, the game could have gone either way until Eagle County netted two late goals for a 9-5 victory in Steamboat's opening round-robin game.

Steamboat's Kevin Olsen, who doubles as the tournament organizer, thought Eagle County was one of the best, if not the best, team in the field this weekend.

"The first time we played them, they crushed us," he said.

Of course, Steamboat rarely has its full team when the two teams meet. Not everyone was present for Saturday's game, either, but Steamboat could lose all its round-robin games and still win the tournament, Olsen said, because the teams will be bracketed for today's single-elimination round.

Bracket play begins at 12:30 p.m. at Whistler Field. Steamboat wraps up round-robin play against Breckenridge at 10 a.m. today.

Steamboat first got on the board against Eagle County when Olsen scored the game's opening goal on the team's second possession. Eagle County evened the score before the end of the first quarter.

The visiting team pulled ahead, 4-1, in the second before Steamboat scored three unanswered goals in the latter half of the second quarter and the opening minute of the third to make it a 4-4 game.

Steamboat's Alex Paul and Reggie Coats used identical plays to score their team's goals in the second quarter. Both took the ball behind the net and wrapped around on the right side, firing the ball low before the defense could react.

After Steamboat scored a quick goal at the outset of the third quarter, Eagle County pulled away, building a 7-4 lead by the end of the quarter, which was more than enough to win.

Steamboat's last goal came from the stick of Coats, who, while falling to the ground, got a shot past Eagle County's goalie, despite having three defenders hanging on him.

Junior AJ Carmack has been playing lacrosse since seventh grade and is using this summer to not only improve his game for Steamboat's varsity team, but also to find a position he likes.

He's played every position on the field, including goalie.

"It's a little more relaxed," said Carmack when comparing high school lacrosse to the summer team. "I'm playing any position I want to see what I want to play. I still need to figure out what I want to do, and these guys are helpful."

Carmack added that although people may think the speed of men's lacrosse is slower because the players are older, it's not.

"It's about the same," he said. "Plus, these guys are bigger and hit harder."

Although Denver is widely regarded as a hotbed of lacrosse talent, the sport is gaining popularity in the mountains, much to the delight of young men like Tim Swierczek.

He's been playing goalie for 12 years in the Philadelphia area and didn't know whether he would have the opportunity to play when he enrolled at Colorado Mountain College. He returned to Steamboat five days ago.

"I knew there was lacrosse, but I didn't think it would be that big," he said.

Last year, Swierczek coach--ed Steamboat's junior varsity squad.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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