Steamboat girls lacrosse seniors fuel the growth of the team, eye first playoff appearance
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Seniors Anna Nell and Lucy Shimek saw the Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse team at its worst their freshman year.
“If somebody showed up to practice two days a week, that was good,” Nell said.
Shimek remembers practices with eight people and when the losses outnumbered the wins. Now, the team has a full squad of 25 girls at practice and an 8-4 overall record with only one loss in the Mountain League.
“Our freshman class started the turnaround,” Shimek said. “We reversed our record from freshman to sophomore year and just kept getting better. It’s been really cool to see. The culmination of that is getting to the playoffs.”
But now, the two smile and laugh at the old days, gazing over the field of a junior varsity squad about to take over on Wednesday, May 1, following their 16-3 victory over Eagle Valley (3-9). The future of Sailors lacrosse looks bright, especially if they can finish this season with a goal they’ve had since the beginning: a playoff appearance.
The 2016 Sailors varsity team held a 5-10 record, going 3-6 in the Western Slope. They lost to teams like Eagle Valley, 19-11, but on Wednesday, May 1, they won on a running clock.
In 2017, the Sailors flipped their win-loss record to 11-4, reaching a 4-3 record in the Mountain League, then went 8-7 overall last year with only two losses in the Mountain League. Currently, the Sailors are 8-4 with only one loss in the Mountain League.
“We’ve seen the most growth in getting everyone involved,” Shimek said. “As a freshman, it was a one- or two-person show. Now, we have multiple girls with multiple goals in stat books, even in some of our harder games.”
That was the case for the Sailors’ game against Eagle Valley on Wednesday, where Shimek and junior Riley Schott combined for a total of 10 goals, but four other players crashed the net. Junior Julia McCarthy was the next leading scorer with three goals, adding to her tally of six so far this year.
March 23: at Cherokee Trail, W 9-8 (OT)
March 26: at Summit, W 14-4
March 29: at Grand Junction, W 15-7
March 30: at Fruita Monument, W 10-9
April 3: vs. Roaring Fork, W 15-10
April 5: vs. Montrose, W 19-5
April 12: at Rocky Mountain, L 21-10
April 13: at Golden, L 14-6
April 15: vs. Thompson Valley, W 15-6
April 18: at Evergreen, L 14-7
May 1: vs. Eagle Valley, W 16-3
May 4: vs. Battle Mountain, W 13-4
“She’s got nice stick work around the goal,” Sailors head coach Amy Norris said. “She knows how to fake, where she catches up high and puts it down low, and she rebounds. She had a shot where she hit the goalie, picked it back up and put it back in the net.”
The enjoyment of seeing success come to fruition increased the the team’s interest in the sport. They’re seeking out strategies for improvement. McCarthy spent her spring break touring colleges and watched a girls collegiate lacrosse game at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
“Just to see the ball movement at such a faster pace than what we play here,” McCarthy said. “Just seeing how they play made me realize, ‘Oh, I should start doing that to play like them.'”
Other goal contributors during Wednesday’s game included junior Mckenna Keyek, junior Kelly Strotbeck and senior Alicia Mitchell.
The game against Eagle Valley shook off the rust of spring break, propelling the Sailors back into action, a wake-up game needed to prepare for Saturday’s regular season finale against Battle Mountain (8-4).
“We just need to clean up a little bit,” Norris. “Little more crisp passes and settle it down more on attack and not be rushed with our feet.”
The Sailors currently sit at No. 18 in the RPI standings, putting them on the cusp of their second playoff appearance in school history. The first predates the team’s current era, which started in 2010. Steamboat’s first girls lacrosse team appeared in 1998 but folded in 2008. The first varsity team to take the field was in 2012.
The opportunity to be a part of history is something the Sailors have in the back of their minds, but they’re trying not to talk about it until it comes.
“It’s cool for us because there hasn’t been a Steamboat girls team that has made the playoffs in a while,” Nell said. “This is the best team we’ve had in a while and probably the best team we will have for a while.”
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