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Fruita hands Aspen lacrosse first loss

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Nicky Ufkes did not think it had a chance.

The Aspen senior watched intently as his shot bounded off the turf and toward the near post during the waning minutes of Tuesday’s game against visiting Fruita Monument. Somehow, the ball eluded the Wildcats’ goalkeeper and clipped the net, squaring the game at seven.

“It was one quick move and one quick shot – I didn’t waste a lot of time,” Ufkes said.

“I told my teammates we had to keep scoring goals, stick that knife in and keep twisting. … In this game, things can change in a heartbeat.”

The Skiers know that well. They twice battled back from two-goal deficits to square Tuesday’s game. Fruita had an answer each time, however. It scored twice in the final five minutes to pull out a 9-7 win, handing Aspen its first loss in five games this season.

“We didn’t use that momentum and capitalize on it,” Ufkes said.

“Fruita is a terrific team. They came out and moved the ball well,” Aspen head coach Mike Goerne added. “Our kids fought a good game, they just weren’t completing passes they normally complete.”

The Skiers, who were playing their first game in nearly two weeks, spent nine days without sticks in their hands during spring break, Goerne said. The rust showed early Tuesday, as the Wildcats struck with a goal from Ethan Grider in the opening minute.

Aspen countered with two goals from Rex Christensen to take its first and only lead with four minutes to play in the first. It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored three times during a nine-minute stretch at the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters and led 4-3 at halftime.

Mike Aresty squared the game four minutes into the third, firing a low liner from just outside the near post. Later, with 4:39 remaining in the quarter, he faked a pass out wide, made a quick move to the inside and beat Fruita’s keeper for the score, knotting the game at five.

“We had a lot of good momentum,” Goerne said. “It can come so quickly, but leave so quickly as well.”

The Wildcats slipped two shots past Daniel Ryerson during a two-minute stretch to take a 7-5 lead with little more than 11 minutes to play.

The Skiers proved they had one more run in them, as Aresty and Ufkes found the net.

It was not enough.

Not long after Ufkes’ score, Aiden Woomer scooped up a deflection and went low for a goal. Grider provided some insurance with 2:38 remaining, after Fruita’s defense forced a costly turnover.

“When you have one practice before a game, it’s tough to get the sticks moving again and to see the field,” Goerne said. “[Saturday] will be a completely different game.”

The two teams will square off again on Saturday. First, Aspen will visit Grand Junction at 4 p.m. Friday.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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