Aspen High girls lacrosse looks to keep momentum from historic 2019 season
Two years ago, the Aspen High School girls lacrosse team put together its best season in program history. The Skiers went a perfect 15-0 in the regular season and beat Air Academy in the second round of the state playoffs before a 12-7 loss to Valor Christian in the quarterfinals.
Like all teams, AHS wasn’t able to build off that momentum last spring when the entire 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, as the 2021 season got underway Tuesday, there was no belief the team was starting anew.
“The seniors in years past have set the pace for what Aspen lacrosse is about. So I feel like the younger girls, especially this junior class that is stepping into an upperclass role, they know exactly what we are about,” Aspen coach Amanda Trendell said after practice Friday. “I don’t feel like we are starting over. I’m holding the same high expectations of what Aspen is. So I feel like we are actually just picking up right where we left off, with just new faces and new jersey numbers.”
The Skiers opened their fourth season (including the pandemic season) under Trendell on Tuesday, winning 16-5 at Eagle Valley in the new-look Mountain League. Standout Kylie Kenny had six goals to lead the way, while her younger sister Michaela had five goals. Bella Haneman had 12 saves in goal.
Unlike in 2019, girls lacrosse now has two classifications instead of just one, with Aspen playing in the lower but possibly more competitive Class 4A. The traditional Mountain League has been divided into two different leagues, with AHS playing out of the East with Eagle Valley, Steamboat Springs, Roaring Fork, Summit and Battle Mountain.
While the preseason CHSAANow.com poll has Evergreen and Conifer sitting at No. 1 and 2, respectively, in 4A, Aspen opened the season ranked No. 3 in the state. Golden is No. 4, Rocky Mountain is No. 5 and Steamboat is No. 6.
“It’s just the best to be back on the field with all my favorite teammates and coaches. We are having a lot of fun. The energy is super great and we are all super excited to be back with each other, playing the sport we love,” Kenny said last week. “We definitely in years past have put in a lot of work to demonstrate what we are about, both as Aspen and in the Mountain League. But by the same token, I think we always pride ourselves on being a bit of a darkhorse. We never really come in with egos or any sort of idea that we are better than anyone.”
Kenny, who has played varsity since her freshman season, is the team’s lone senior this spring. Back in November, she signed to play Division I lacrosse with the University of Denver, although she remains focused on the team dynamic this season.
Kenny’s leadership will be important, however, as she is one of the only Skiers to have played significant varsity minutes. Even this year’s juniors were only freshmen the last time AHS had a season.
“It’s a newish team. None of us have really played at a varsity level. But with that being said, I think we’re still ready,” said AHS junior Lindsey Heinecken, whose older sister Hayley was a key piece of that historic 2019 team. “I would say the girls that came before us set the highest bar. And it’s a goal for this team to reach what they did every single day. It’s definitely an incentive.”
Even though this year’s team doesn’t have much experience, Trendell is excited about the potential nonetheless. The players made the most of the pandemic by continuing to train as much as they could despite not having a season last spring and one game into the 2021 campaign it looks like they’ll be a force yet again.
“It’s a super young team. Obviously the sophomores had the expectation of being on varsity last year and finally making their impact, so they are going from making varsity to actually being an integral part of varsity,” Trendell said. “I feel really confident with this junior class, just knowing their overall IQ and their skill ability that they are going to walk onto the field and not miss a beat.”
The Aspen girls aren’t scheduled to compete again until hosting Battle Mountain on May 12.
The AHS boys lacrosse team is scheduled to open its season Wednesday night, also at Eagle Valley.