Photo by John F. Russell
Steamboat Springs High School junior Stephen Shenfield spent his spring break fine-tuning his offensive skills during lacrosse practice at Gardner Field. The team is preparing for its first playoff appearance after wrapping up the conference with a perfect 13-0 record.
Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse has officially arrived.
The team made the playoffs for the first time in school history, might host a playoff game and won the inaugural season of the Mountain Conference, and judging by the dozen or so players who have shown up to practice during Steamboat's spring break, it's safe to stay this is a place Steamboat now expects to be.
"I think this year we don't have as many practicing during spring break as we'll do from now on," Steamboat coach Bob Hiester said. "I think from this point on, we're legitimate. Kids will start planning (spring break) around qualifying (for state) and having some sort of game."
That's a statement Hiester's been waiting eight years to say. The veteran lacrosse coach hasn't been shy about saying this is the best Steamboat lacrosse team ever. The numbers certainly back it up.
Steamboat wrapped up the Mountain Conference with a 13-0 record, outscored its opponents 134-42 this season and hasn't had a close game since mid-March.
"Teams that play us will get better just because they played us," Hiester said. "That's the same thing when we were in the Foothills Conference is we got better playing those teams. So everybody will be moving up that ladder, so our job is to keep a few steps ahead."
What has helped, Hiester said, is the team doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, and lacrosse in Steamboat has really caught on.
Several players at practice during this week planned spring break around lacrosse, almost certain the team would be playing in the playoffs.
"I did," senior Jasper Gantick said. "My dad did, for sure. He thought the playoffs would start this week. They didn't, but we're still here. Even a day when you don't have a stick in your hand makes it hard to get back into the swing of things. But a full week to get out here and practice is awesome."
Gantick, along with fellow senior Gus Worden, led practice Wednesday and are two cogs that have been with the program when Steamboat was often on the wrong end of lopsided games.
Both said the perception that teams from the Front Range are much better is slowly melting away. It's in the talent, they said, as both are planning to play lacrosse in college next year. Worden is set to play at Division III Adrian College in Michigan, while Gantick will play junior college ball at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y.
"We've got some of the best kids in the state," Worden said. "I think we can hang with most of the teams. The talent isn't just in Denver. It's in other places, too."
Steamboat will find out Tuesday where its first playoff game is when the Colorado High School Activities Association seeding committee meets.