Third-quarter momentum carries Steamboat boys lacrosse past Aspen in pivotal non-conference game
Neither side with much of an advantage midway through Wednesday’s top-10 matchup, the opening minutes of the third quarter proved crucial in a key win for the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team against one of its main non-conference rivals.
“These guys are doing a really good job of responding in the third quarter, which is just huge for a lacrosse game to steal that momentum out of halftime,” SSHS coach Jay Lattimore said. “That was definitely the turning point in the game.”
A goal by Steamboat’s Jacob Gilbertson not even two minutes into the second half broke a tie and helped carry the Sailors to an 8-6 win over Aspen High School on the AHS turf. Ranked No. 8 in Class 4A this week and looking for an important RPI boost, the Skiers struggled to find the net after halftime against No. 7-ranked Steamboat.
Trailing 2-0 roughly midway through the first quarter, Aspen answered with back-to-back goals by Robbie Fitzgerald and Tyler Ward in less than a minute to draw even. Steamboat’s Ryan McNamara followed with a goal only 20 seconds after Ward’s equalizer to make it 3-2 SSHS after a quarter.
The defenses settled in throughout the second quarter, but Fitzgerald still managed to score twice more, his second of the quarter giving AHS a 4-3 lead with just over four minutes remaining until the break. McNamara’s second goal about 90 seconds later made it 4-4 at halftime.
“We just kind of kept our composure,” Lattimore said. “We were forcing it a lot in the beginning and kind of beating ourselves up a little bit. So we just kind of slowed it down a little bit and tried to play the lacrosse we know we can play.”
Steamboat outscored Aspen 3-0 in the third quarter to take a 7-4 lead. Aspen’s Dominic Lanese got one of them back, scoring with about eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but the offense couldn’t find a way to get any closer. Steamboat put the game away with a Jackson Lynch goal with a touch over two minutes remaining.
Ward put in one more in the closing minute for the final 8-6 margin.
“We were by far the better team. The story of us is we play great at the beginning and we tend to get a little sloppy and make some mistakes,” Aspen coach Tommy Cox said. “We are growing as a team and I think if we were to see this team again it would be a completely different score. It’s crazy how a couple of mistakes can change the tune of the game.”
Steamboat improved to 10-3 overall with the win, one that keeps the Sailors in contention for a possible top-five seed in the 4A playoffs. Steamboat plays at Eagle Valley on Thursday before closing out the season May 3 against Vail Mountain.
“It’s just huge. We want to get to 12-3 and we just made it a little easier on ourselves to get there,” Lattimore said. “We needed two non-conference wins. The three non-conference teams we lost to are top-six teams in the state, so we didn’t want to slip up here in Aspen.”
It was a missed opportunity for an Aspen team that fell to 4-4 overall and remains on the playoff bubble with only a couple of weeks to go in the regular season.
“Like I said, come out hard and we will continue on with growth every day,” Cox said. “We just got to come out and learn from today and move forward.”
Aspen next heads on the road for games at Durango and Montrose on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
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