Western Slope lax squad tops at Vail tourney
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colo. – Admittedly, Mike Goerne had few expectations when he guided his U17 Mountain All-Stars lacrosse team into last week’s 16-team Warrior Vail Colorado Lacrosse Tournament.
After all, his team, comprised of players from Western Slope schools – including five (Bo Writer, Grant Huber, Terry Leitch, Daniel Ryerson and Dane Christensen) from his Aspen High program – was largely outplayed in 2008. It also dropped its opener this year to a team from Southern California.
The Mountain All-Stars rallied – in a major way. They won four of seven games to advance to Thursday’s championship game. There, they outlasted Denver’s Mile High Magic, scoring the game winner one minute into the third overtime to escape with a thrilling 7-6 B division victory.
Lacrosse on the Western Slope is alive and well.
“The team erupted – they ran out faster than I’ve seen a team run in a long time,” Goerne said Tuesday. “It was so cool to show that the Mountain Conference can pull down a Denver select team. … This shows how fast and how dedicated the players on the Western Slope are to learning the game.”
The squad went 1-8 in Vail in 2008, and didn’t pick up their lone win until the tournament’s final day. This time around, the Mountain All-Stars proved resilient after an opening-game loss in Tuesday’s pool play. They cruised to victory against a squad from Minnesota – one coached by one of Goerne’s former teammates from his days on a Minnesota all-star squad – by eight goals.
After a loss to a team from Denver to close out Day 1, the Mountain All-Stars blanked Utah, 7-0, on Wednesday. The string of inconsistent play continued, however, as Denver’s Icon Lacrosse, a team littered with college prospects, handed Goerne’s bunch a 16-1 loss.
The coach said he was expecting a similar result against Georgia, which lost to Icon by just two goals. He said he was surprised when his squad trailed by just one goal, 3-2, at halftime.
The two were tied at six with a minute left in the game, but Georgia found the net in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory. Still, Goerne said the performance was encouraging.
“Our lungs and energy are what brought us into a game like that,” he added. “The kids played great lacrosse and got better every single day. They played more as a team and started finding each other sooner. They continued to build.”
Goalie Spencer Currie provided a spark in the first half of the Mountain All-Stars’ next game – a rematch with Minnesota in a B division quarterfinal (the 16 teams were split into A and B divisions based on prior results). The Battle Mountain product corralled a loose ball, then pushed the ball up field. When no defender picked him up, Currie sprinted toward the opposing goal, fired and scored.
“It was one of those rare things. Long poles score ever few games, but a goalie scoring is an every-few-seasons type of deal,” said Goerne, whose team won, 8-4. “It was a huge momentum swing.”
The Mountain All-Stars dispatched Utah, 10-3, to advance to Thursday’s final against Mile High Magic. After eight games and two long days of action, Goerne predicted momentum swings would define the championship game.
He was right. His team struck first with two quick goals, but the Magic battled back to square the game. At the end of the third, the Mountain All-Stars had a 5-3 advantage. With 45 seconds remaining in the game, that lead had been cut to one.
The Magic converted the equalizer to force a three-minute overtime period.
Make that three overtimes.
The Magic made two bids for the win in the second overtime, but had two shots ring off the post. One minute into the third, an attackman from Wheat Ridge – one Goerne met at an Aspen lacrosse camp and later recruited after a player dropped out – put the Mountain All-Stars on top.
He sprinted up the field on a clear, received a pass from a Steamboat Springs midfielder and went low, tucking the ball into the corner.
Cue the celebration.
“It was cool to see them finish it,” Goerne said. “I think it definitely fired up the Aspen guys to keep pushing the team to get better and better.”
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