Aspen boys lacrosse rallies for 7-6 overtime win against Fruita Monument
Robbie Fitzgerald did something few attackers go out of their way to do — make a great defensive play.
A freshman on the Aspen High School boys lacrosse team, Fitzgerald’s steal deep in Skier territory — which he quickly converted into a goal — was soon enough forgotten in the drama-filled finish to Tuesday’s game against visiting Fruita Monument. But without it, Aspen likely would not have been able to rally for its 7-6 overtime victory at the AHS athletic field.
“We are trying to get that out of attackmen — to not only play offense but to play the ride, hard,” Aspen coach David Miller said. “If you talk to anybody who has played or has coached in the college ranks, you get recruited for your riding the attack. So it’s not about your offense, it’s about your defense.”
The Skiers have relied on their defense most of the season, and it held serve early in Tuesday’s game. The teams were tied 1-1 after a quarter before a back-and-forth second quarter led to a 4-4 halftime score.
The second half started ominously for Aspen, Fruita scoring two early goals in about two minutes to lead 6-4 for the first multi-goal lead of the game for either team. Then, midway through the third, Fitzgerald made the hustle play, his steal and goal cutting it to 6-5 Fruita entering the final quarter.
“We are working on the positivity,” Miller said about the team staying upbeat when it falls behind. “We have a tendency to grip our sticks and throw the ball away or not make the next pass. It’s something that is a work in progress and we are trying to get there. Obviously it comes from everybody on the team and that cohesion we are still working on, but I think we are really close.”
Only one goal was scored in the fourth quarter, and it came late. With 81 seconds remaining in regulation and the Skiers still trailing by a goal, Aspen junior Niko Cesark put one in the back of the net to send the teams to a sudden death overtime period.
With Aspen’s undefeated league record hanging in the balance, it was a great save and hustle play by AHS senior goalie James Kistner — who found Fitzgerald up the field, who fed junior Jordan Hornberg for the goal less than 90 seconds into extra time — that sealed the deal for the Skiers.
As quickly as the ball went from one end of the field to the other, half the team was able to mob Hornberg after his game winner, while the other half surrounded Kistner at the other end.
“It was a good win for us,” Miller said. “We could clean it up; too many unforced errors, again. We are getting there. We finally closed out a close game, so that was good.”
Fruita fell to 8-4 overall with the loss and 5-2 in league play. Aspen, the only team remaining in the 4A/5A Mountain league with an undefeated record in league play, improved to 6-3 overall and 4-0 within the league.
AHS continues to hold a top-10 RPI in Class 4A, and is ranked No. 10 this week in 4A in the poll voted on by coaches and media members.
Aspen next plays Thursday at Grand Junction (3-7 overall), the first of six remaining games in the regular season.
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Keegan Swirbul was set to carry on with his nomadic career this summer with Ljubljana Gusto Santic, a professional cycling team based out of Slovenia