Steamboat Springs Seven years into the program, it has come down to this for Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse coach Bob Hiester.
With conviction, Hiester says this year's lacrosse team has the potential to be the first Steamboat team to qualify for the state lacrosse tournament. The Sailors have been close the past two seasons, but several overtime losses have kept them out.
But when he looks at this year's roster and the team's balance, Hiester isn't afraid to say this is the Steamboat team that will make history.
"It's funny, when we first started, we couldn't throw and catch," Hiester said about the first couple years of the school's lacrosse program. "There was little we could do in terms of strategy. We had to rely on athleticism. Now we're getting kids that have played four years or played since they were little. I think (the state tournament) is a reality for us. The kids still have to play, but the kids are a good, hard-working group."
The schedule certainly works in the Sailors' favor. Although Steamboat will face powerhouses like Columbine, Golden and defending state champion Fort Collins, the Sailors will play nine of their 15 games at Gardner Field.
Steamboat also returns a slew of talented starters.
Led by Scot Forney in goal and Tyler Ostrom and Kevin Bertrand at attack, Steamboat should improve on last year's 4-8 record.
"We definitely have to make the playoffs, and that's really my only expectation," Forney said. "I know we're going to do it."
Hiester said making the playoffs will come down to how Steamboat weathers the first part of its season. Many Front Range teams already have practiced for two months on grass fields.
"It's been pretty solid, but now it's a matter of keeping up with the guys on the Front Range," Hiester said. "We've had one time on grass."
Hiester said to get into the playoffs, Steamboat will have to get better at spacing. Because the team spends a good portion of the early season practicing in the high school gymnasium, Hiester said the Sailors struggle when they finally get out on the field.
"We have to hold the ball on offense because I think we'll score some. Then defensively get out of our end, and I think we'll be pretty successful," Hiester said. "We've got a good group and some pretty good athletes. Making state is a doable goal."