Titans lacrosse falls short in comeback

“The battle and fight alone in these guys is impressive to watch”

By Than Acuff 

While a slow start plagued the Crested Butte Titans lacrosse team in the first quarter, they methodically clawed their way back into the game over the course of the next three quarters before falling 9-8 to the Grand Junction Tigers on Thursday, April 11.

The two teams met earlier this season and Grand Junction got the better of the Titans handing them an 11-7 loss and after the first quarter it looked like this game would end up similarly.

Grand Junction set the pace early on with fast clears up field that had Crested Butte scrambling resulting in a 5-0 Tigers’ lead by the end of the first quarter.

“GJ started the game off much more aggressive than us especially in the midfield and clearing the ball and scored a lot on fast breaks,” says senior captain Riley Davis. “We were getting beat by dodges and GJ was moving the ball after their dodges to open shots.”

Grand Junction scored a sixth goal 15 seconds into the second quarter, but Crested Butte did not panic and reeled Grand Junction’s attack in, slowed down their clears and eventually got on the scoreboard when AJ Hegeman took a pass off a Crested Butte clear, faked a pass and drove to goal to score. Grand Junction responded at the end of the half for a 7-1 lead, but the game was far from over with the momentum slowly turning in Crested Butte’s favor.

“AJ saw a three versus two opportunity and got right to the hole to score,” says head coach Carter Brock. “That helped build confidence on the whole team. We weren’t playing awful, we just had a couple of mistakes that led to goals.”

Brock and his coaching staff got to work during the halftime break and while no major changes were made, they just reminded the team of their roles and what needed to be done.

“Just keep playing our game and clean things up,” says Brock. “They knew what they had to do.”

Titans goalie Gavin Fischer opened the third quarter with a big save to set the tone and the Titans soon went to work on offense. Hegeman found Luke Walton inside with a pass and Walton scored three minutes into the third. One minute later, Davis beat his man one-on-one to score and then scored again 90 seconds later off a broken play to cut the Tigers’ lead down to three goals.

Three minutes later Hegeman picked off a clearing pass and immediately passed to Jack Pierson who then fed Walton for another Titans’ goal to pull within two. Grand Junction closed the quarter with a goal, but the momentum was firmly in Crested Butte’s favor.

“We were much more aggressive on defense not allowing dodges to get space and we were sliding much better to open shooters,” says Davis. “On clears we began making short passes to open midfielders and defenders which made clearing much easier. Our goalie Gavin Fischer played outstanding saving many tough shots and throwing accurate clears to midfielders who were breaking out.”

“Our patience and ball movement looked good to get open looks and their goalie was saving low shots, so we started shooting high,” adds Brock.

Crested Butte scored again two minutes into the fourth quarter as Davis beat his man for his third goal of the game, but the Tigers responded to build a 9-6 lead with seven minutes left to play. Crested Butte had additional chances on a couple of man-up situations to climb even closer, but they struggled to find the net until a third man-up situation as Davis found Pierson open in front of the net and Pierson scored.

Down two with two minutes left to play, the Titans called a timeout to make one last push on their game-long comeback effort. Pierson battled through a flurry of slashes and stick checks to score pulling the Titans within one with a minute left and in another man up situation.

They executed a perfectly designed series of passes to set up one last look on the doorstep in the final seconds, but the Tigers’ goalie made the save to preserve Grand Junction’s 9-8 win.

“Our man up situations could have gone smoother all game, it was just too little, too late,” says Brock.

“Of course, the loss stings because it is a game we could have won, and we started with one of our worst halves of the year,” says Davis. “However, I feel like we really figured how to get better shots on offense in the second half and our midfielders figured out how to help our defense out on clearing the ball and also maintain longer offensive possessions.”

The Titans are now 4-7 overall, 4-5 in league play with four games left to play after the April break this week. Despite how things look on paper, Brock likes what he has seen out of his team thus far and looks forward to a strong close to the season.

“The battle and fight alone in these guys is impressive to watch,” says Brock. “It makes me proud as a coach.”

The four-game stretch starts at home when they host Fruita Monument on Tuesday, April 23 at 4 p.m. The game is also Senior Night for the Titans and a great way to get the team back on the winning track.

“They’ll bring a lot of energy and hopefully win these last four games because they’re all winnable games,” says Brock. “We put ourselves in a position where we can achieve our goal, which is a winning season.” 

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