Steamboat boys lacrosse past Aspen in pivotal nonconference game
The Aspen Times
ASPEN — With neither side with much of an advantage midway through Wednesday’s top-10 matchup, the opening minutes of the third quarter proved crucial in a key win for the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team against one of its main nonconference rivals.
“These guys are doing a really good job of responding in the third quarter, which is just huge for a lacrosse game to steal that momentum out of halftime,” Sailors coach Jay Lattimore said. “That was definitely the turning point in the game.”
A goal by Steamboat’s Jacob Gilbertson, not even two minutes into the second half, broke a tie and helped carry the Sailors to an 8-6 win over Aspen High School in Aspen. Ranked No. 8 in Class 4A this week and looking for an important RPI boost, the Skiers struggled to find the net after halftime against No. 7-ranked Steamboat.
Trailing 2-0 roughly midway through the first quarter, Aspen answered with back-to-back goals by Robbie Fitzgerald and Tyler Ward in less than a minute to draw even. Steamboat’s Ryan McNamara followed with a goal only 20 seconds after Ward’s equalizer to make it 3-2 Steamboat after a quarter.
The defenses settled in throughout the second quarter, but Fitzgerald still managed to score twice more, his second of the quarter giving Aspen a 4-3 lead with just over four minutes remaining until the break. McNamara’s second goal about 90 seconds later made it 4-4 at halftime.
“We just kind of kept our composure,” Lattimore said. “We were forcing it a lot in the beginning and kind of beating ourselves up a little bit. So, we just kind of slowed it down a little bit and tried to play the lacrosse we know we can play.”
Steamboat outscored Aspen 3-0 in the third quarter to take a 7-4 lead. Aspen’s Dominic Lanese got one of them back, scoring with about eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but the offense couldn’t find a way to get any closer. Steamboat put the game away with a Jackson Lynch goal with a touch over two minutes remaining.
Ward put in one more in the final minute for the final 8-6 margin.
“We were by far the better team. The story of us is we play great at the beginning, and we tend to get a little sloppy and make some mistakes,” Aspen coach Tommy Cox said. “We are growing as a team, and I think if we were to see this team again it would be a completely different score. It’s crazy how a couple of mistakes can change the tune of the game.”
Steamboat improved to 10-3 overall with the win, one that keeps the Sailors in contention for a possible top-five seed in the 4A playoffs. Steamboat plays at Eagle Valley on Thursday before closing out the season May 3 against Vail Mountain.
“It’s just huge. We want to get to 12-3, and we just made it a little easier on ourselves to get there,” Lattimore said. “We needed two nonconference wins. The three nonconference teams we lost to are top-six teams in the state, so we didn’t want to slip up here in Aspen.”
It was a missed opportunity for an Aspen team that fell to 4-4 overall and remains on the playoff bubble with only a couple of weeks to go in the regular season.
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