Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse players prepare to take the field during Tuesday’s game against Battle Mountain. The Sailor have had a turbulent past but are showing positive signs of improvement.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse players prepare to take the field during Tuesday’s game against Battle Mountain. The Sailor have had a turbulent past but are showing positive signs of improvement.

Steamboat girls JV lacrosse program steadily improving

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Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse player Nikki Fry collides with a Battle Mountain player during Tuesday’s game.

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Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse player Dominique Powers runs the ball up the field during Tuesday's game against Battle Mountain.

2011 Sailors girls JV lacrosse schedule

— There never seems to be a simple answer as to where girls lacrosse is going to go in Steamboat Springs.

It’s one of the most head-scratching programs to pinpoint.

The team has made the state playoffs, disbanded because of a lack of interest, rebounded as a junior varsity team and now appears to be on the brink of once again becoming a varsity program.

But will it last?

“It definitely could be successful here,” said coach Betsy Frick, who took over the program last season. “It will be a while. It takes time to develop a competitive statewide team. But I think we could be competitive next year in the Mountain Conference.”

The team returned last year to form a junior varsity team after there wasn’t enough interest in 2009.

The team played a junior varsity schedule last season and often had to borrow players from other teams to field a 12-person lineup.

Encouraging signs

Steamboat played Durango’s junior varsity team at the end of March and had to borrow players.

But in subsequent games against Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley, their numbers increased.

The roster has expanded from 12 players to 14, to 16, and culminated with 18 players in a win Tuesday against Battle Mountain’s varsity squad.

“I really think we have the potential to go far with it,” said sophomore Emily Spiess, who played last year and said she would play the rest of her high school career. “We have talent, and our interest has grown a lot this year. We were a shaky team who wasn’t sure what was

going on. This year, everything is just on a higher level.”

The roster, which officially sits at 20, also shows signs of good roots.

The team has four freshmen, 11 sophomores, five juniors and no seniors. Of the 20, nine had never played before this season, nine had one year of experience and two had played for more than two years.

Add that context to Tuesday’s win against Battle Mountain’s varsity, where Steamboat jumped out, gave up a big lead but put it away in the last two minutes, and there absolutely are signs of progress.

“I think we’ll again have the numbers next year,” Frick said.

Still hurdles

As encouraging as the revamped roster and Tuesday’s game were, there are still challenges the program almost always will face.

The lack of a feeder program and infrastructure means most girls won’t have picked up a stick until their freshman year.

The Steamboat boys program became the class of lacrosse on the Western Slope, thanks in large part to the work of Neill Redfern and Steamboat Youth Lacrosse.

The other big mitigating factor is the girls lacrosse season runs concurrent with the girls soccer season.

Girls soccer — a sport with a good feeder program — had 50 girls go out for the team this year.

Boys lacrosse and soccer, however, run opposite seasons.

But that doesn’t mean girls lacrosse won’t be viable in the future. Steamboat Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe said it’s possible the team could go to a varsity schedule next year. He said they’d look at the numbers and what the team does in the summer to see if there is a way to make that happen.

“Right now we’re taking budgetary concerns into account, but it’s definitely in the realm of possibilities,” he said. “Betsy has done a nice job of building that program.”

For now, Frick said she’s still trying to build interest in the sport — one she hopes never goes away again.

“Ultimately it would be wonderful to develop it to the point of the boys program,” she said.

“It’s doable. I don’t think it’s that much longer and we’ll see Mountain Conference teams compete and beat against Front Range teams. That’s our goal. It’s a fun carrot out there to chase.”

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