Steamboat boys answer 2nd-half threat to close regular season
May 4, 2013
Steamboat Springs — It's likely on to the playoffs for the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team. The Sailors’ seed in the 16-team field will be announced Sunday.
The squad's final game of the regular season offered the players more than a little food for thought. Steamboat celebrated senior day, sending off a huge class of 14 with an 11-9 win against Grand Junction.
The victory bumped the squad to 12-3, but it was anything but a comforting ride. For the third time in as many games, Steamboat was faced with a fierce, second-half charge from an opponent challenging what had seemed to be an impenetrable lead.
That wasn't all bad, coach Bob Hiester explained.
"Once it got tight again, we played really well," Hiester said. "We gave away a lot of momentum, but we recouped it and finished strong."
Having lost the Colorado Class 4A Mountain Division to Aspen this season, Steamboat isn't guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Still, the Sailors, ranked No. 5 in the most recent The Denver Post poll, are likely to get a nod and perhaps even figure into the top half of the seeds, securing a home game.
About half of Saturday's regular-season finale was good enough to give the Sailors comfort no matter what their seed or opponent. The other half speaks to what's been a disconcerting late-season trend for the team.
Steamboat got up 6-1 in the first two quarters and looked good doing it.
Mike Lekarczyk scored on a sweet assist from Christian Ramirez, and Peter White scored off a Ben Wharton pass. Mitch McCannon slammed home a rebound in front of the goal for a 3-1 lead before Ramirez scored once and Wharton twice.
Wharton connected again to open the third quarter, and Thomas Tarcha made it 8-1 less than two minutes into the third.
Things didn't just look in control; they were, at least until an oh-so-quick momentum shift knocked Steamboat on its rear.
The Sailors ended up outscored 6-1 in the quarter's 10 remaining minutes as the Tigers mounted a terrific charge, leaping back into the game.
"We tried to pair up some of our better guys with some of their slower sticks," Grand Junction coach James States said. "It took us a little while to figure it out. We definitely figured it out in the third."
Steamboat was outscored 8-3 in the second half. Combine that with a heartbreaking loss last month to Valor Christian, when Steamboat was outscored 7-1 in the third quarter, and a generally listless second-half performance last week against Summit, and there might be the makings of a trend.
That's not how Hiester was looking at it Saturday. Instead, he said that his team profited from the close game and that the experience gained will prove far more important than anything that could have been taken from a lopsided final score.
"We lost some poise in there, and then we regained it and finished strong," Hiester said. "We had a couple penalties, some bad plays where we forced the ball. Naturally, you think, 'Now we have to push it,' and that don't always help. But the kids did a nice job finishing it up."
Indeed, Steamboat did close with authority.
Grand Junction twice cut the lead to one, but Tyler Scott scored early in the fourth, and Dane Dixson put in the game's final goal with three minutes remaining, converting a series of passes to exploit a turnover deep in Tiger territory.
The Sailors possessed the ball for most of the final six minutes to secure the win.
"We were losing a little bit of focus at halftime, but everyone did what they had to do and stayed confident," Ramirez said. "We have to bear down and get the job done."
Saturday's game might have cost more sweat than he'd planned, but Ramirez said it did little to shake the team's confidence.
"Everyone on our team, we're so close," he said. "We believe in each other, and when we work together, there isn't anyone who can touch us."
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com