Steamboat girls lacrosse makes playoffs for the first time in 18 years |

Steamboat girls lacrosse makes playoffs for the first time in 18 years

Steamboat Springs High School junior Ava Thiel looks on from the goal as defenseman junior Lili Hutchinson charges toward the ball in the game against Battle Mountain on Saturday, May 3, at Gardner Field.
Leah Vann

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s been 18 years since the Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse team made the playoffs.

But the No. 18 Sailors (9-4, 7-1) ended that streak with a 13-4 defeat of No. 20 Battle Mountain (9-6, 4-3) on Saturday.

“We came out strong from the beginning and played tough,” Steamboat head coach Amy Norris said. “Our defense was communicating and marking up and attacked shots well.”

The team started in 1992, making the state playoffs once under first head coach Danielle Gallagher’s two-year tenure.

“We went to states one year, and we did pretty good,” Gallagher said. “We had a bunch of kids on the ski team that wanted to check out lacrosse. They were just good athletes and outperformed a lot of other teams because of their athleticism and fitness level.”

The Sailors didn’t see the postseason again until 2000 and 2001, losing in the first round to Colorado Academy and Arapahoe high schools.

During the early 2000s, the Colorado High School Activities Association had 25 girls lacrosse teams in the state and 16 of them made the playoffs. Steamboat was one of six teams in the Foothills Division.

When participation dwindled, the team folded in 2008. Head coach Betsy Frick revitalized the program in 2010 as a junior varsity squad, not competing at the varsity level until 2012.

The Sailors had not made the playoffs since the program’s rebirth and given the recent history, had no reason to believe they would this year.

“I almost didn’t play my senior year,” Steamboat senior Alicia Mitchell said. “I didn’t have the love for it, but I’m so happy I did. I never thought the team would grow this much and be this connected.”

The Sailors knew they were hanging by a thread to secure that final playoff spot when the Huskies took the field. CHSAA now has 58 teams playing girls lacrosse and only the top 20 are allowed a spot in the postseason.

The game’s growth is what sparked the addition of a second classification in 2021 to split the teams, so for this season and next season, it’s arguably the most competitive time to make the playoffs.

“It’s just such a different skill level we’re playing at now,” Steamboat senior Lucy Shimek said. “It’s remarkable how much we’ve grown. I never pictured it.”

Steamboat girls lacrosse
March 20: vs. Aspen, L 20-5
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

Steamboat junior Ava Thiel was taken aback when she hears she had 15 saves during the game against Battle Mountain.

“I didn’t think I had that many saves,” Thiel said. “My adrenaline was really going, and I didn’t think it about it. Whenever someone came up with the ball, I just went for it.”

The Huskies threatened on the attack multiple times in the first half, narrowing in Sailor’s territory while in a 3-0 deficit. Almost seven minutes into the first half, Thiel deflected a shot on goal. She quickly swung her stick down to catch the next on a penalty shot to the bottom right corner.

“She crushed it,” Norris said. “She’s been working hard all season, but I think her mental game today kept her in there. She was on fire and played with confidence.”

While the Huskies managed their first goal 12 minutes and 34 seconds into the game, the defense felt Thiel’s aggression, and it fueled them to play harder. Turnovers sent the Sailors running back on the attack, and set the tone for a dominant showing with a 6-2 lead at halftime.

“When Ava saves all the goals, we just get so hyped and that’s when the defense says, ‘Oh we got this!,'” Steamboat junior Shelbee Weiss said.

The Sailors ran away with the score in the second half. Steamboat junior Riley Schott scored six goals in the contest, including four in the first half. Shimek posted four. Steamboat junior Sammy Kennedy had two. Mitchell scored the final goal.

While the score never came close, the will to make playoffs pushed the Sailors to make sure this was no fluke. They earned their spot.

“I think all of us know that we’re ranked as one of the lower playoff teams,” Shimek said. “So we’re probably going to end up playing one of those top 10, really good teams. I think the attitude going into that just has to be, ‘We’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to get scored on, just do the best you can.'”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @lvann_sports.

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