Titans lacrosse gains ground on top teams near end of season

Battle Fruita Monument to double overtime

By Than Acuff

After falling 8-3 early last week to the top team in the league, Fruita Monument, the Crested Butte Titans lacrosse team faced them again two days later and pushed them to double overtime before falling 8-7 on Friday, April 28.

The Titans got off to a fast start in the first showdown when Luke Walton scored off an assist from Blue Gardner to go up 1-0, but Fruita Monument responded with four straight goals to build a 4-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. Fruita Monument tacked on two more goals in the second quarter, but Walton struck again for the Titans and Gavin Fischer continued to make saves throughout the second half to keep the game from getting away. The Titans held Fruita Monument scoreless in the fourth quarter while Ace Gaither scored off an assist from Gardner and the Titans got their first glimpse of the top play in the league falling 8-3. Fischer finished the game with 14 saves, Walton scored two goals, Gardner had two assists and Gaither had an assist and a goal.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” says coach Buck Seling. “We were well prepared, we just didn’t execute as well. It was a pretty even game after that first quarter and I think we played them pretty tough.”

The Titans then hosted Fruita Monument two days later and learned from the first match up to bring an even better game to the second showdown.

“Their offense wasn’t really complicated and because we’d seen it before, we were prepared for it,” says Seling.

With a raucous crowd and senior recognition that day, the Titans went toe-to-toe with Fruita Monument to open the game as the two teams traded off goals. Once again, Crested Butte struck first when Gaither scored four minutes into the game off an assist from Riley Davis. Fruita Monument responded but then Brendan Hartigan scored to put the Titans back on top. Again, Fruita Monument tied it up before Gardner scored off an assist from Davis. Fruita Monument had the last say of the quarter and the teams finished the opening 12 minutes notched in a 3-3 tie.

Crested Butte then opened the game up in the second quarter. Hartigan scored his second and third goals of the game with assists coming from Jack Pierson and Gardner, including scoring one in a man down situation.

“That was a big lift for us,” says Seling.

 Pierson capped the three-goal outburst scoring off an assist from Finn Ramsey and the Titans were on top 6-3 heading into halftime.

“We didn’t do anything special in the second quarter, just played lacrosse,” says Seling. “Our defense kept us in the game and we were winning faceoffs. We just played well and the kids were pumped at halftime.”

The momentum swung back in Fruita Monument’s favor in the third quarter as they scored four unanswered goals to retake the lead 7-6.

“They executed and we didn’t,” says Seling. “That third quarter destroyed us, but we hung in there.”

The Titans hung in there so much so that their defense and Fischer stopped the bleeding in the fourth quarter and then Gardner tied the game scoring off an assist from Gaither with five minutes left in regulation. Crested Butte continued to hold off Fruita Monument, but the game-winning goal eluded them, and the teams headed into overtime.

After an even first overtime period, Fruita Monument took advantage of a quick reset to find an open man and scored to edge out the Titans 8-7. Fischer finished with 11 saves, Fraser Birnie battled the top faceoff player in the league and nearly twice Birnie’s size to win 11 of 19 faceoffs, while Hartigan recorded a hat trick, Gardner scored two and Gaither and Pierson scored one goal each. The Titans had six assists on their seven goals.

“From a scoring standpoint, as a coach, I’m really proud,” says Seling. “It shows we’re moving the ball and allowing for motion that the keeper can’t keep up with. It was an action-packed game.”

The Titans now have a massive week ahead with their final four games of the regular season over a five-day stretch. They face Middle Park in their final home game of the season on Friday, May 5, time to be determined, and then close things out on the road when they head to Boulder to play Dawson.

“I’m looking forward to all four games, hopefully we can keep the energy up,” says Seling.

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