Sailors boys lacrosse opens state playoff quest by hosting Conifer
May 5, 2014
Steamboat Springs — The regular season is complete, and now Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse has a new pair of immediate challenges ahead.
The first is handling its first-round opponent, Conifer, which the Sailors drew when the Colorado High School Activities Association released its 4A state playoff bracket Monday morning.
The second obstacle may be even tougher than hosting the 7-7 Lobos on Tuesday night at home. If Steamboat beats Conifer in the first round and advances to Friday's quarterfinals, it will most likely square off against Valor Christian.
And the Sailors would love nothing more than to get another shot to avenge back-to-back 11-10 losses to the Eagles, especially with a trip to the Final Four on the line. It's difficult to not look ahead to that potential second-round matchup.
"Valor — not much to say about how amped we'd be to play them at full strength, especially with the playoffs on the line," Steamboat coach Jay Lattimore said.
The first Saturday of Steamboat's spring break, the very shorthanded Sailors weren't able to complete a late comeback, dropping their first game of the year in overtime to Valor.
But without looking too far ahead, into Steamboat comes Conifer, a slowly emerging program competing in its first state playoffs. The Lobos have posted a regular-season winning record just once, going 8-7 in 2011. Conifer is a combined 35-64 since 2008.
The Lobos finished fourth in the Foothills Conference, behind top seed Wheat Ridge, Thompson Valley and Alexander Dawson. Steamboat finished tied for first in the Mountain Conference but is seeded lower than its conference foes Battle Mountain (No. 4) and Aspen (No. 5).
The Sailors and Lobos had five common opponents this year in Thompson Valley, Golden, Battle Mountain, Green Mountain and Summit. Conifer beat three of the five schools, losing to Thompson Valley, 14-7, and Green Mountain, 12-11. Steamboat beat both teams in the regular season. The Sailors are 5-0 against their common opponents with the Lobos.
"I know they're a program that's continually growing," Lattimore said about Conifer, which is operating under its own first-year coach Jaime Lincoln. "We're a little ahead at this moment in time, but it's the playoffs, and everyone is hungry. We really need to tighten up our defense. We need to be suffocating."
Though Conifer is tasting the playoffs for the first time, Steamboat is in familiar territory. The Sailors drew the No. 6 seed for the second straight year and are competing in the state playoffs for a fifth consecutive time.
Last year, the No. 6 Sailors handled No. 11 Windsor, 13-5, then edged No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain in the quarterfinals, 10-9. Air Academy, the No. 2 seed, knocked the Sailors out of the playoffs, 6-4, in the semifinals.
"I think this year we have a lot more drive," senior Erik Sobeck said. "Last year, the team wasn't as focused as it is this year I think.
“I think we're really dedicated to winning heading into the playoff," Sobeck added.
Though Steamboat is trying the one-game-at-a-time approach in the playoffs, Lattimore said the team's goal is to advance to May 17, the date of the state championship at Mile High Stadium. And the team getting another chance to impress on its home field following Saturday's 16-13 loss on senior day to Aspen is huge, the first-year coach said.
"I told them after the tough loss that today starts a new season," Lattimore said. "In a way, I think the loss was a good thing. It took us down a notch mentally. It makes us hungrier. It makes us realize we have to work hard against everybody. Nothing will be easy."
Faceoff is at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Gardner Field.