Aspen boys lax advances in state playoffs
The Aspen Times
The high-scoring Aspen boys lacrosse team turned to its secret weapon Tuesday afternoon.
The Skiers, the No. 5 seed in the Class 4A state playoffs, used a shutdown second-half defense to smother visiting Evergreen 20-7 in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.
Oh, there was plenty of offense from the highest-scoring team in the Class 4A field.
But the Aspen defense allowed only a single goal in the second half.
The Skiers’ rapid-fire offense scored the final nine goals of the game in the playoff victory on the turf field at Aspen High School.
“Our defense played out of their minds today,” Aspen junior Tyler Tick said. “We’ve been changing up the defense and putting in new stuff. And they adapted phenomenally.”
With a host of defenders — including Victor Dunn, Zachary Storm, Gage Carr and Nicky Cottrell — in front of goalie Jordy Cottrell, the Aspen defense shut down the Evergreen attack.
“And Jordy played great, obviously,” said Tick, who triggered Aspen’s attack at the offensive end.
His pass to Jonathan Wells set up Aspen’s first goal in the opening minutes.
Tick, who would finish with three goals, scored his first to give Aspen a 3-2 lead in the tight first period.
“Harry and Fitz always seem to find the open guy,” Tick said of teammates Harry Ferguson and Ryan Fitzgerald. “They’re great guys to be on the field with.”
On the attack
Fitzgerald scored two goals in the first period as did Wells, all part of Aspen’s 5-3 first-quarter lead.
Fitzgerald would finish with six goals.
Teammate John Heaphey added five goals for the Aspen offense. He scored three times in the second quarter when the Skiers built their 11-6 halftime lead.
Ellis Sterling (2) and Dylan Haga scored in the opening quarter for Evergreen (5-11).
Haga added two more goals in the second period for the Cougars, who also got another score from Haga.
Jeremiah Schutzius scored early in the third quarter for Evergreen, pulling the Cougars to within 11-7.
That’s when the scoring stopped for Evergreen.
Fitzgerald promptly scored three consecutive goals for the Skiers, who also had goals from Matt Sovich and Carr in the third period.
Burke Daily joined the scoring parade in the fourth quarter as the Skiers rolled to their 14th win of the season.
The Skiers (14-2) advance to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs and a game against either No. 4 Battle Mountain (13-2) or No. 13 Air Academy (5-10).
“Both of those teams, we have played this year,” Aspen head coach Mike Goerne said. “Both of those teams have some really good wins on their schedule.”
Those two teams are scheduled to play today at Battle Mountain’s home field in Edwards.
If the Huskies win at home, they would host Aspen in the second round on Friday.
If Air Academy upsets Battle Mountain, Air Academy would play at Aspen on Friday.
“Battle as the No. 4 seed is the favorite, but Air Academy has had some quality wins,” Goerne said, crediting the Aspen defense in the first-round win over Evergreen.
“We needed to step up our defense,” Goerne said of their halftime adjustments Tuesday.
“The defense did a good job of adding pressure to the right places, helping on the back side, not allowing an open shot,” Goerne said.
He said the teamwork and positioning, in combination with defensive pressure, was crucial.
“We did a good job of getting the ball and clearing it up the field quickly,” he said.
And the Skiers were able to exploit their transition game.
Even Jordy Cottrell contributed to the Aspen offense.
“Jordy was extremely comfortable taking the ball down the center of the field, and it resulted in an easy goal for us,” Goerne said of the unique exchange midway through the third quarter.
Leading the break
After making a save in the Aspen goal, Cottrell charged up the field at full speed, carrying the ball.
He passed from midfield to Tick, who passed to Ferguson, who passed to Fitzgerald, who scored Aspen’s 14th goal — clearly the most popular goal among the Skiers’ fans who had gathered for the playoff game.
Aspen girls play today
Lacrosse fans will be back at Aspen High School today when the AHS girls host Mullen in the first round of the girls state lacrosse playoffs.
The Aspen girls (12-3) won the Mountain League this year and earned the No. 13 seed in the 20-team field.
Mullen (9-6) is the No. 20 seed in the state tournament.
The opening draw for today’s CHSAA state playoff game will be at 5 p.m. at the AHS turf field.
Because the event is a CHSAA playoff game, admission will be taken at the gate.
Girls lacrosse is played in one division in Colorado; the boys play in two divisions — 4A and 5A divisions.
The Aspen-Mullen girls winner will play at No. 4 Arapahoe (11-3) in the second round of the playoffs.
The Aspen girls have won seven consecutive games entering today’s playoff contest.
Centaurus (14-1), a high school in Lafayette, is the No. 1 seed for the 2014 Colorado girls lacrosse tournament.
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There hasn’t been a girls golf season since 2019, as the 2020 spring seasons were canceled for all sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Skiers will compete Friday and then again Monday to get the 2021 spring season going.