Steamboat's Wilber Ranieri launches a shot against Denver East on Saturday. Steamboat won the game, 9-4.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat's Wilber Ranieri launches a shot against Denver East on Saturday. Steamboat won the game, 9-4.

Steamboat boys lacrosse wins 1st playoff game

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— The crowd cheered even the smallest successes as the clock ticked down and the players didn’t slow, sprinting through their exhaustion even through the final minute.

Maybe that adds up, considering everything, considering the history. Despite wild success in the regular season, the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team never had won a playoff game. On Saturday, after an overwhelming second half swamped, then sank Denver East, the Sailors and their fans barely seemed to believe it.

Steamboat flew into the second round with a 9-4 home-field victory Saturday, and the players and fans squeezed every last drop out of it all.

“We’ve never been past the first round, and you have to give credit to the whole team,” senior Lance Ostrom said. “Everyone really tried their hardest. Even in the end of the game, we kept pushing, and that was the best part of the game.”

The effort on display in the waning seconds may not have reflected the ample cushion the Sailors had built, but it was indicative of the surge that had given them the chance to relax for the final minute, if they’d so chosen.

Stymied by a tough Denver East squad and persistent nerves in the first half, Steamboat struggled to get shots early. They notched just three in the first quarter, and although they built on that with 11 in the second quarter, they trailed 2-1 at half.

Steamboat kept improving, however, and in an incredible third quarter, years of heartbreak, a tough defense, an aggressive offense and a setting sun shining into the eyes of the Denver defense came together. The Sailors outscored the Angels, 6-1, in the quarter. Ostrom scored to tie the game, and Peter White added another three minutes into the period to give his team the lead. Ben Wharton added another to make it 4-2 and the Sailors were on track.

Ostrom finished with a hat trick. White had two goals and John Wharton, Ben Wharton and Christian Ramirez each added one as Steamboat took the game and ran away with it.

“They had the crowd and came out with a lot of energy in the second half. They started finishing their opportunities,” Denver East coach Sean McCarthy said.

Steamboat, which had struggled early to get shots, found plenty of chances as the game wore on. The team’s fast pace, especially in switching from defense to offense, kept many of Denver East’s defenders off the field, and time and time again, the Sailors were able to exploit that. Scorers got inside and slid the ball into the net, and they rocketed in from 20 and 30 yards away, taking advantage of what at least a few times seemed to be a goalie blinded by the light.

“I think the sun was a part of it,” McCarthy said. “There were maybe two of those I thought he could have had, and it looked like he didn’t see them. But we tried to do the same thing in the fourth quarter, and weren’t able to take advantage of it.”

Steamboat took 10 shots in that third quarter, scoring on six. Denver managed only two shots in the fourth quarter, when Steamboat’s defense faced the sun, and scored on one.

“We kept at it and kept at it like we have all year long,” Steamboat coach Bob Hiester said. “That’s the key to this group. They don’t get down on each other. They don’t get down on themselves. Now they’ve cracked through the ice, and we’re looking forward to the next game.”

That next game will be Wednesday, though where and against what team remains up in the air.

After Saturday, the Sailors aren’t sure it matters.

“We can play with anyone,” Hiester said. “We have a good lacrosse team.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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