“It’s been high energy and I think the boys are liking it”
by Than Acuff
After two years of hard work building a high school lacrosse program in the Gunnison Valley, including two years of mandatory JV play, the Crested Butte Titans lacrosse team jumps into the varsity fray this season with a complete 15-game schedule and the opportunity to qualify for the postseason.
The timing couldn’t be better. The efforts of coach Buck Seling built enough interest through the team’s two trial seasons that he has 36 players from both Crested Butte and Gunnison on the roster for the upcoming season.
“The numbers are great,” says Seling. “I’ve always had a goal of getting 40 players and we’re moving in the right direction. It allows us to have a varsity and a JV team.”
In addition, while Seling struggled to find help coaching the first two years of the program, he now has two full-time assistant coaches in Alex Solomon and Carter Brock, as well as part-time coaches Len Mason, Nick Walter and Steve Snyder.
“It’s a big help for me,” says Seling. “It takes a lot of the pressure off me.”
The Titans are in the 4A Mountain league along with Telluride, Montrose, Durango and two teams from Grand Junction, and have nonleague games against Dawson, Middle Park, the Vanguard School and Aspen on the schedule.
“It’s a competitive league with a few strong teams that have been around a while,” says Seling. “You don’t know until you play them, but I think we’re going to be competitive in some of those games. Dawson and Aspen should be very strong.”
They started preseason workouts on Monday, February 27, and despite the weather, have managed to get five outdoor practices behind Gunnison Middle School. Players are still trickling in from winter sports and Seling had a mixed-bag squad when they headed to Colorado Springs on Saturday, March 4, for a day of scrimmages.
“We were supposed to have two varsity and two JV scrimmages, but I only had enough players for one team, so we played four scrimmages,” says Seling. “It was very challenging because we didn’t have everyone back, so we had a mix of players together and they were pretty tired by that fourth scrimmage.”
When they returned to practices this week, Seling was up to 34 kids and will continue his work reminding them of their basic offense and defense systems, and focusing attention on technical skills.
“I’m bringing it to a level they understand and then will build off of that,” says Seling. “Stick skills still aren’t where they need to be and I thought we’d be in better shape.”
Seling has nine seniors on the team, as well as several others that have played with him the past two years, and plans to start making the split between varsity and JV this week. He also has a lot of defensemen and the benefit of a returning goalie in Gavin Fischer but, for now, that’s all he has.
“We have so many defensemen which is great, I’m very encouraged by that,” says Seling. “We needed a goalie last year and he [Fischer] stepped up. Eventually we’ll need to find another goalie, or we’ll just put names in a hat and everyone has to play a half in the JV games.”
The Titans open the schedule with what could be one of their toughest games of the season when they hit the road to play Dawson on Saturday, March 11.
“Dawson has four returning all-state players,” says Seling. “It will be an interesting first game.”
The Titans play their first home game of the season when they host Telluride on Tuesday, March 21, at 3:30 p.m. All home games will be played on the field behind Gunnison Middle School.
So far, the attitude and effort seem to be in place for what could be a successful start to a varsity and JV high school lacrosse program in the Gunnison Valley.
“It’s been high energy and I think the boys are liking it,” says Seling. “I’m trying to build a culture where the kids enjoy going to the games, going to practice and enjoy being together.”