Aspen boys lacrosse advances in state playoffs, beats Rangeview in first round
Skiers will play at rival Vail Mountain in second round on Friday
For the first time since 2018, when the team made the semifinals, Aspen High School boys lacrosse advanced in the Class 4A state playoffs on Tuesday with a 13-8 win over Rangeview on the AHS turf.
The victory means another grudge match is coming when the Skiers play at rival Vail Mountain School on Friday in the second round.
“I’m feeling good,” AHS coach Tommy Cox said. “Obviously some areas for improvement, some things we can work on going into our next game on Friday. I think this was a good showing. We’ve worked through some offensive tendencies.”
The Raiders, seeded No. 22 in the 24-team state tournament, came out swinging against No. 11 Aspen, but the Skiers managed a 3-2 lead after a quarter and a 6-4 lead at halftime.
The beginning of the third quarter was the big difference in the game, with AHS scoring four goals in the span of about five minutes to start the half to build up a comfortable 10-4 advantage.
“One of the things we are working through is trying to get the kinks out early in the game. Once you come through halftime, you are able to analyze,” Cox said of that spurt. “We took a look at the statbook, understood where our shots were going. It helps. Coming out of halftime, the boys got their mindset right and we did a couple of tweaks and it seemed to pay off.”
Rangeview didn’t let the game get too out of hand, however, scoring a pair of goals late in the quarter to trail 11-6 heading into the fourth. The Raiders got as close as 12-8 with just under eight minutes remaining, but Wyatt Eaton’s goal four minutes later officially ended the comeback talk.
For Rangeview, which finishes with a 10-6 overall record, including four straight losses, the eight points scored against the Skiers was its second lowest output of the entire season (Northfield, 4A’s No. 12 seed, beat the Raiders 10-3 on April 29).
“This team is different, and they are acting as such,” Cox said. “It feels good. All it really means is more work to do.”
Aspen’s last playoff win was back on May 11, 2018, a 9-8 road victory for the No. 6 Skiers over No. 3 Battle Mountain in the 4A state quarterfinals. AHS lost at home against No. 7 Cheyenne Mountain in the semifinals a game later.
Aspen’s 2019 playoff run didn’t get past the first round, a 10-5 loss to Evergreen. Then came the pandemic, which canceled the 2020 season, and the condensed 2021 season resulted in a 2-8 record for AHS and no playoff appearance.
The Skiers are now 9-6 overall this season and will play No. 6 Vail Mountain (12-3) in the second round on Friday. As one of the top eight seeds, VMS did not have to play a first-round game.
Photos: Aspen boys lacrosse vs Rangeview
The teams split their two games in the regular season, with Aspen winning 8-7 in overtime back on March 24 in Vail, and the Gore Rangers taking a 7-4 win on April 29 in Aspen.
Even more will be on the line when the teams meet on Friday for the third time this spring.
“The bragging rights are huge, but again it’s about proving it. We said all year long we are different. This is where you put your money where your mouth is,” Cox said. “I don’t think there could be a more fitting next round. We are 1-1 on the season. We came off a loss in the regular season where we could have improved, and this is our chance to show them what we are made of. I am so excited, as are the boys. They are fired up.”
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to the state quarterfinals on Tuesday against the winner of No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain and No. 14 Battle Mountain. The Huskies beat No. 19 Ponderosa in the first round on Tuesday, 8-7, while Cheyenne Mountain had a first-round bye.
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Like most high school sports programs across the nation right now, Garfield County athletics directors are seeing fewer applicants for open coaching positions. Five years ago vacant positions were filled within just a couple of days.