The Steamboat Springs boys lacrosse team has gone from having barely enough players to having enough for multiple teams.
Coach Bob Hiester, hired four years ago as the program's first coach, is expecting more than 50 players to compete this season. In his first season, he had fewer than 20.
"The kids here really have embraced the sport," Hiester said. "This is typical of lacrosse. The stick is like a magnet."
It's the growing interest and offseason commitment to lacrosse that enable the Sailors to be competitive in the Foothills League, despite the program's relative youth.
"We will be competitive and surprise some folks as soon as we make the transition to grass from the gym," Hiester said.Much like every spring sport in Steamboat, the boys lacrosse team has been confined to a hardwood floor. The Sailors have worked on drills, but it's difficult to simulate the dimensions of a lacrosse field and practice throwing the ball 50 feet inside.
Steamboat opens the season at 3:30 p.m. today against Monarch. The junior varsity team plays at 5 p.m. Sat-urday, and both teams are in Evergreen.
Of the 55 players Hiester expects to have, three are seniors: Danny Carlson, Tyler Andrew and Patrick Kuczkowski. Carlson has been one of Steamboat's leaders on the field and has turned into an exceptional player.
But the Sailors won't have to rely on Carlson to score. Jake and Andy Flax, Justin Howard and Neal Ficker are experienced, as well.
"They've been with us all along," Hiester said about his juniors. "I think we'll generate more offense this year."
The Sailors' first home game is scheduled for April 4 against Columbine, but Hiester is doubtful the fields will be ready in time. This season, however, make-up dates have been scheduled for the early April home games. Allowing others to see the sport in Steamboat is one way to ensure it continues to grow, he said.