Boys lax: Aspen advances to state semifinals
The Aspen Times
The Skiers survived and advanced, but it wasn’t pain-free.
The Aspen High School boys lacrosse team triggered an avalanche of goals in the third period Friday afternoon and scrambled to a hard-hitting 20-7 victory over Windsor in the state quarterfinals at noisy Aspen School District Stadium.
The scoring deluge came after an emotional halftime speech from Aspen senior captain Ryan Fitzgerald, who had just returned from Aspen Valley Hospital after suffering a broken collarbone during a first-quarter collision.
The Skiers, leading only 7-6 at the half, responded with six consecutive, momentum-stealing goals in the third quarter when standout Windsor goalkeeper Colton Ferris was involved in a multiple-player collision in front of his goal, suffering an apparent broken collarbone and sending another lacrosse player to the AVH emergency room.
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“Fitz came in and gave us a little speech at halftime. That got us fired up,” said fellow Aspen senior captain Harry Ferguson, who scored two goals and added three assists against Windsor. “Fitz is a huge loss. I can’t even tell you how much fire and passion he brings to this team.”
Ferguson said the rest of the Skiers stepped up against Windsor, and they assumed their usual identity.
“The second half is when we really turn it on. We adjust to what they are doing,” Ferguson said.
Tyler Tick scored four times in the frantic third quarter. Matt Gregory added a goal for the Skiers along with John Heaphey.
Ferguson, after taking a transition pass from Heaphey, set up Tick for a goal and Aspen’s 13-6 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Trey Robinson scored twice. Jonathan Wells, Henry Godfrey, Evan Morris and Ferguson potted fourth-quarter goals.
“At halftime, we just said we have to (win) for him,” said Tick, who finished with a game-high seven goals. “Something clicked in the second half; it was a fun thing to watch.”
He said the Skiers played “amazing defense” against the Wizards, who they had faced in a nonleague game just two weeks ago — a 12-6 Aspen win.
Windsor, after giving up four Aspen goals to start the game, pulled to within 5-2 at the end of the first quarter on goals from KC Scott (assisted by Joe Shermock) and Clayton Grave (assisted by Josh Bloss).
Nathan Tucker and Shermock scored in the second period, and when Hunter Hop scored with one second to play in the half on an over-the-shoulder, no-look shot, the Wizards were within 7-6.
“We were right there. We just haven’t quite put a full game together,” Windsor head coach John Belleau said. “But we’re still young … only four seniors.”
Belleau said the Wizards benefited from their playoff experience this year, including this week’s first-round home victory and a second-round trip to Aspen.
“Losing our star goalie with a broken collarbone was tough,” he said. “There’s not a lot of guys you can replace him with. He’s been standing on his head all season.”
Belleau, who heads the Weld Central youth lacrosse program, said the Wizards were within a goal of Valor Christian at halftime this season. And the Wizards led Aspen at halftime 5-4 when they visited Aspen School District Stadium earlier.
Belleau, ironically, coached Aspen’s Ryan Fitzgerald at a lacrosse camp in Maryland last year.
Windsor, with three consecutive state playoff appearances, finished the season 11-6.
“We came out in the third quarter, and we played really well,” Aspen head coach Mike Goerne said. “We went out there and adapted, and we stayed at it.”
He said the Skiers have been resilient all season, en route to the No. 1 seed for the 16-team state playoff bracket.
“That’s the thing I have to commend these kids on, the way they play through whatever comes their way,” Goerne said.
“The scoring was all over the board today,” Goerne said after eight Skiers scored. “Tyler Tick had a great game. John Heaphey, Trey Robinson, Jonathan Wells, they were all creative today.”
He said the Skiers also played through numerous penalties in the spirited playoff contest.
“It’s playoff lacrosse,” Goerne said as the Skiers (15-2) advance to the state semifinals and a home game in Aspen next Wednesday against Alexander Dawson School of Lafayette (12-6).
Alexander Dawson eliminated Battle Mountain 12-10 in a second-round game Friday in Edwards.
“We’re looking forward to a massive crowd Wednesday for the state semifinals here on Aspen turf,” Goerne said.
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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.