Aspen High girls lacrosse ushering in new era |

Aspen High girls lacrosse ushering in new era

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen's Lizzie Ecclestone scores for Aspen in the Skiers' double-overtime victory over Battle Mountain last season.
Anthony Thornton / Vail Daily |

The Aspen High School girls lacrosse team will open the new season Saturday with a new look on the sidelines.

Jessica Owings, a four-year player at the University of Denver and longtime club coach, is leading the Skiers this year as the new AHS head coach.

Along with a new coaching staff, Owings and the new-edition Skiers will play their first official game of the season at 11 a.m. Saturday against Telluride at Canyon View Park in Grand Junction.

“The girls are really excited. They are anxious to win the Mountain League banner again this year,” Owings said as the Skiers return in 2015 after winning the league title in 2014. “I think that’s something that is a possibility for us.”

She said the Skiers, strong in numbers through all four high school classes, have been playing full-field scrimmages for more than a week with the cleared turf field at Aspen High School.

Plus, the Aspen girls played in the annual league preseason scrimmages last weekend — with success for the varsity and junior varsity teams.

“The girls are excited to be playing outside,” Owings said, adding that the Skiers battled Wednesday evening’s cold temperatures at practice without a single whine. “No complaints at all. No pushback.”

She said the team showed good tempo in the preseason scrimmages.

“I think we have a good group; we have a lot of talent over all four classes,” said Owings, a former all-state prep player at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock. “I think the future of the program is strong.”

Owings, who works for the Aspen Community Foundation’s Cradle to Career Initiative in her day job, went on to play for four years at the University of Denver under a trio of legendary coaches — Cathy Reese, Jen Adams and Liza Kelly.

Kelly is the current DU coach.

Reese now is the head coach of national powerhouse Maryland, where she had starred as a player. Her Maryland teams have reached the NCAA final four the last three consecutive seasons.

Owings said it was an amazing experience to play for coaches who have a combined seven NCAA national titles.

After her playing career, Owings said she thought she would need a break from the intensity of NCAA Division I lacrosse.

“Within a year, I knew I just had to have lacrosse in my life again,” said Owings, who took a position as an assistant coach at Arapahoe High School in the Denver area.

She moved to the Roaring Fork Valley six years ago and jumped right into the coaching scene.

She worked as a club coach for the Aspen Lacrosse Club’s middle school girls team, and she worked for a time as a junior varsity coach for the high school.

She added the head coaching job this year for the Skiers.

And, the lacrosse coach also serves as the Western Slope liaison and board member for the Colorado Lacrosse Foundation, which is the state chapter of U.S. Lacrosse (the national governing body for the sport).

Owings said she is excited to extend the lacrosse coaching tree from her roots. The former captain of the Pioneers’ lacrosse team, Owings said the Skiers are blessed with a deep and experienced set of assistants.

“We are really fortunate to have all of this coaching expertise available,” Owings said.

Margot Ellis is the junior varsity coach, back for her third season with the Skiers.

The former Georgetown University player was a team captain in college. And she also played field hockey for the Hoyas.

Volunteer assistants Kim Pantages and Caitlin Stanley round out the staff.

Pantages also is in her third season with the AHS program. She played at Northwestern University where she was part of three NCAA national championships.

Stanley won three state championships as a prep at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis before playing at the University of San Diego. She coached in the Traverse City schools and also coached the Aspen Lacrosse Club U15 team.

“We all love the sport. We all live and work here,” Owings said. Pantages works at the St. Regis; Stanley works at the Aspen Art Museum; Ellis works at Blazing Adventures; Owings at the Aspen Community Foundation.

“We hope to make the high school program as strong as we can,” Owings said.

She said the Skiers will open the home season Tuesday (March 10) against Eagle Valley with a special event for the Aspen Lacrosse Club. High school players will meet with the elementary and middle school players on Tuesday as part of the home kickoff for the 2015 season — the first with Jessica Owings as the Aspen girls head coach.

Boys LAX today

The AHS boys lacrosse team will open the season at home at 4 p.m. today against Montrose.

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