AHS boys lacrosse opens season Thursday against Vail Mountain
Tommy Cox never expected to coach. In fact, after he left St. John’s University in Queens, where he played NCAA Division I lacrosse, the Long Island-native figured he was more or less done with the game.
“The first baby picture of me is with a lacrosse stick in my hand,” Cox said. “It becomes a job. Mainly you are there to play lacrosse and do well. It stopped becoming fun. It was no longer fun. So when I got out of college, I took a sabbatical from the sport.”
Then, about three years ago, Cox moved to the Roaring Fork Valley. He was completely unaware of the area’s growing lacrosse culture and it didn’t take him long before he was pulled into the thick of it.
Today, the 27-year-old will make his debut as the head coach of the Aspen High School boys lacrosse team when the Skiers host Vail Mountain School at 6 p.m. on the AHS turf, weather permitting. Junior varsity will play at 4 p.m.
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“No, I never really felt that I was going to be a coach,” Cox said during team tryouts late last month. “It’s changed my life and how I look at things. I can finally give back to the kids with the sport that has influenced me heavily.”
Cox is replacing David Miller, who was the team’s head coach each of the past three seasons. Miller went 34-15 with the Skiers, including last year’s 14-3 campaign that ended with a 13-5 loss to Cheyenne Mountain in the Class 4A state semifinals. Cheyenne Mountain beat top-seeded Dawson School in the championship game, 8-6.
“It was just the right time for him. He gave so much to this program for the past three years,” AHS athletic director Martha Richards said of Miller.
“(Cox) has a very clear vision of how he wants his kids to behave and how he wants them to play.”
Of all the people Richards compared Cox to, it was current University of North Carolina football coach Mack Brown. Brown had a long tenure as the University of Texas football coach, where he led the Longhorns to a national championship. Richards knew Brown from her time coaching women’s golf at Texas.
“There are some coaches that have this energy about them, and you listen to them and you’re, ‘Yeah, I want to play for that guy.’ And the first guy I heard that was when I heard Mack Brown speak at a fundraiser when I was the assistant coach at Texas,” Richards said. “(Cox) has that kind of energy. While he’s young, he’s very mature and he has very great perspective on what is most important, what we need to focus on.”
The Skiers lost a talented senior class a year ago, including Jordan Hornburg, who had 35 goals to tie for the most on the team along with then-freshman Tyler Ward. Hornburg also led the team with 27 assists. R.J. Peshek and his 26 goals and 14 assists are gone, as are a handful of others who played a key role last spring.
But the cupboard isn’t bare. Ward is back, as is Trey Fabrocini, Dawson Holmes, Robbie Fitzgerald, Charlie Campisi and goalie Logan Soderburg, among others. Early on this spring, Cox liked what he saw from a group entering the season ranked No. 5 in 4A by CHSAANow.com. Cheyenne Mountain is preseason No. 1, followed by Thompson Valley, Golden and Erie.
“It’s good to see a change in some of their maturity levels coming from the youth club up to here,” Cox said. “What I’ve witnessed just in the preseason and in tryouts is this team is committed. More than we were back on Long Island. The commitment is there.”
Rounding out the preseason rankings are No. 6 Steamboat Springs, No. 7 Battle Mountain, No. 8 Dawson, No. 9 Evergreen and No. 10 Vail Mountain, Aspen’s opponent in their season opener. AHS beat VMS in their only meeting last spring, 11-1.
This will be the first game for the Skiers since the deaths of coaches Mike Goerne and Owen Green, who died in a Feb. 16 avalanche near Crested Butte. Green had been an assistant with the high school team in recent years, while Goerne started the program back in 2006 and was the team’s head coach through the 2015 season, when it won the state championship. Both Green and Goerne were expected back as assistants this spring.
“They want to live in their image and they are getting it. They are doing what I was hoping they were going to do and spin deaths into a positive, which is hard to do,” Cox said of the players. “Bringing it back to Mike, I’ve watched him and idolized him the last couple of years. What did he do? He won a state championship here. To me that’s the most amazing thing I could do for them.”
Aspen High GIRLS LACROSSE TO HIT FIELD FRIDAY vs telluride
The Aspen High School girls lacrosse team is set to get its second season under coach Amanda Trendell underway Friday with a weather-permitting 6 p.m. home game against Telluride.
The Skiers are scheduled to then play at Battle Mountain on Saturday and host Durango on Monday.
Aspen went 12-4 last spring, matching the program’s highest win total from both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, after going 8-8 in 2017. The Skiers were the No. 13 seed in the state tournament and beat No. 20 Air Academy in the first round, 11-10. They lost in the Round of 16 to No. 4 seed Regis Jesuit, 15-7.
No. 2 seed Colorado Academy went on to defeat No. 1 Cherry Creek in the championship game, 13-7.
Despite plenty of returning talent, the Skiers aren’t receiving any votes in the preseason polls. Colorado Academy is preseason No. 1, having received all nine first-place votes.
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Herman is the freestyle skiing winner of the Summit Daily’s Peak Performers project, which honors the greatest athletes and most influential figures in Summit county ski and snowboard history.