SSHS boys lacrosse hosts Fruita Monument in Saturday opener | SteamboatToday.com

SSHS boys lacrosse hosts Fruita Monument in Saturday opener

Austin Colbert

The Steamboat Springs High School boys' lacrosse team practices Thursday at Gardner Field.

— It doesn't take long to realize there could be something special about this year's Steamboat Springs High School boys' lacrosse team. The way the Sailors connect with each other during practice says a lot about their potential.

"We obviously have some pretty big goals for this year," senior Drew Williamson said. "We've been playing since I think second grade or so, so our chemistry working together is really high. The first day at practice, we were able to come out here, run a full offense and defense and be able to work efficiently together."

High expectations are nothing new for Steamboat boys' lacrosse. The program was started in 2001 under lacrosse legend Bob Hiester, a member of the Colorado Lacrosse Hall of Fame. In spring 2013, Hiester's final season before retiring, the Sailors went 14-4 and made the Class 4A state semifinals.

Steamboat returned to the state semis in 2014, the first year under coach Jay Lattimore. The 2015 season was, by comparison, a bit of a step back, with the Sailors going 9-7 and falling 16-15 to Windsor in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

Now, with 15 seniors back for 2016, Steamboat looks poised to make another move toward the top.

"They trust each other. They push each other a little bit more and that kind of keeps the bar at a high level," Lattimore said. "This year, the guys are a little more humble from having a little bit of a down season and realize they have to put in a lot more work right now to be a strong team."

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Replacing last year's senior class won't be easy. Gone are Willy Gunn, Andrew Firestone and Mitch McCannon, among others. But this is a program built on reloading a roster, not just replacing what it lost.

Senior Jackson Draper is the top returning points scorer for the Sailors, according to Max Preps, and a possible front man for a deep and talented senior class. Steamboat's depth could be a big bonus throughout the season.

"A lot of experience from first line to last — there is really no differentiation between them besides who begins on the field and who is ending on it," senior Connor Frasier said. "I'm not going to make any predictions yet, but we really want to take it as far as we can, because we believe that we have the ability to."

That journey begins Saturday, when the Sailors open the season at home against Fruita Monument. The Wildcats went 5-10 last spring and open their season Friday at Summit.

Steamboat will begin the season ranked No. 7 in 4A in the initial chsaanow.com poll. Rival Aspen, last year's 4A state champion, is No. 6, while Dawson sits atop the 4A rankings.

Saturday's game against Fruita Monument starts at 11 a.m. at Gardner Field.

"Fruita is a really good, upcoming program," Williamson said. "We've always been able to come away with the 'W' against them, but it's definitely going to be a good game. We are facing a team that has some rising talent."

The Sailors defeated Fruita Monument 14-5 last season.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

SSHS boys lacrosse schedule

Saturday vs. Fruita Monument, 11 a.m.

March 19 vs. Windsor, 1:30 p.m.

March 25 vs. Vail Mountain, 4 p.m.

March 26 vs. Battle Mountain, 11 a.m.

April 1 vs. Evergreen, 4 p.m.

April 2 @ Grand Junction, 11 a.m.

April 6 vs. Thompson Valley, 4 p.m.

April 8 vs. Aspen, 4 p.m.

April 9 vs. Cheyenne Mountain, 12:30 p.m.

April 13 @ Glenwood Springs, 4 p.m.

April 15 @ Eagle Valley, 4 p.m.

April 27 vs. Summit, 4 p.m.

April 30 @ Valor Christian, 11 a.m.

May 6 WSL Championships in Steamboat

May 7 vs. Douglas County, 3 p.m.