Steamboat Springs High School’s Wilber Ranieri goes in for a shot on goal during the second round of playoffs against Kent Denver. The Sailors lost, 17-3.

Shannon Lukens/Courtesy

Steamboat Springs High School’s Wilber Ranieri goes in for a shot on goal during the second round of playoffs against Kent Denver. The Sailors lost, 17-3.

Steamboat boys lacrosse loses to Kent Denver, 17-3, in playoffs


— Lacrosse’s footprint is everywhere in Steamboat Springs. 

Just look around any street in town and there is likely to be a group of kids walking with sticks draped over their shoulders. 

And walk into the Steamboat Springs High School lacrosse locker room at any point during the past six years and it has always been about reaching that next step. 

The team did that this year, winning its first playoff game in the school’s history Saturday. 

But Tuesday, Steamboat got a look at the premier program in the state, a team in Kent Denver that’s not just several steps away from Steamboat, but one of the top programs in the West. 

The Sun Devils dominated for the final three quarters Tuesday, running away with a 17-3 victory in the second round of the state lacrosse playoffs. 

“What they’ve done is awesome,” said Kent Denver coach Tom Graesser, who had his 31st and final season with Kent Denver, a career that’s covered 11 state championships. “What this does for Steamboat lacrosse is put them on the map. More important, it gives them a sense of what they need to do better. It should give them a sense they can move forward. They should be proud.”

Steamboat certainly can look back on the season and realize it was special. The team finished 15-2, won its fourth straight conference title and its first playoff game in school history. 

But none of that mattered Tuesday. 

Kent, which boasts five Division I college bound seniors, simply took and did what it wanted for most of the day. 

Still the two teams traded barbs the first 12 minutes. The Sun Devils scored first and the Sailors responded when Wilber Ranieri took the ball off of a faceoff and was uncontested to the goal to tie it at 1-all. After Kent put up two more to make it 3-1, Steamboat defenseman Jake Miller went end-to-end and bounced a shot in to make it 3-2. 

Kent’s James Rassenfoss scored late in the first to make it 4-2. Steamboat, however, seemingly had some momentum. The Sailors started the second quarter a man up and had a chance. 

But an errant pass led to a Kent fast break. Bailey Tills ripped a shot on the fast break that gave Kent a 5-2 lead and momentum the Sun Devils would put a noose on. 

“That took the air out of their defense from what I could tell,” said Tills, who scored three goals in the game and will go to Brown next year. “It’s tough to come back from that.”

Steamboat never would respond. Kent scored three more in the first half to go up, 8-2. 

The Sailors struggled mightily with the Sun Devils pressure. Steamboat’s two first half goals came on fast breaks. Anytime the team’s offense would try to set up, Kent was a step ahead. 

“This is the first defense that has pressured us the entire time,” Ranieri said. “Every defender had the defensive skills to keep you out of there.”

Still with a chance, Ranieri added his second tally just a minute into the third quarter to make it 8-3. 

But from there Kent did whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted. 

The Sun Devils made it 12-3 after three quarters and had it a running clock in the fourth. 

“Part of playing at that high level is they anticipate stuff,” Steamboat coach Bob Hiester said. “Our guys were more reactive at times. They reacted to what they saw and by that time, Kent’s ahead by two passes.”

The loss ends the season for Steamboat, but a new door opens in Colorado lacrosse. This is the last year teams will play in one classification. 

Next season, there will be a Class 4A and 5A, creating more parity among the lacrosse ranks. 

Steamboat won’t see Kent next season, unless during the regular season. But Tuesday served as a reminder of how far the team has to go. 

But maybe more importantly, it also served as a reminder of how far the team has come. 

“It doesn’t diminish the season in any sense,” Hiester said. “We had some success, but now we’ve seen the next level. It shows us what we need to do.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email


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