Senior spotlight: Eagle Valley lacrosse
This would have been fun
This team was coming like a freight train.
Eagle Valley boys’ lacrosse went 8-7 last season, beating Battle Mountain for the first time in 10 years and making the playoffs for only the second time in the program’s history (2013). The team had 11 seniors coming back this spring.
And they weren’t your average group of seniors — the group had the balance of attackers, middies, defenders and two good goalies. This was going to be THE year for Devils lacrosse, usually an afterthought in the spring sporting landscape.
And then came COVID-19 and the halt of everything sporting on March 13. Yes, every spring sports team from all four schools had reason to be optimistic, but this is a legitimate what-if.
For Eagle Valley seniors Philip Peterson, Slade Pike, Silas Berga, Luke Jeffers, Bergen Blomquist, George Smirl, Luca Hart, Mason Yurcak, Theo McCarroll, Keenan Collett and Jordan Puntell, there will always be a dreamy quality to this nonexistent season.
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“There was a lot of hype,” Devils assistant coach Weston Gleiss said. “It was definitely the most exciting and most buy-in I’ve seen in what would have been my seventh season here. I had athletes coming to me during other (sports) seasons saying, ‘I can’t wait for the season.’ It was through the roof.”
The No. 1 reason all of Gypsum was pumped for lacrosse season was Peterson. All the guy in the No. 2 jersey did last year was rack up 54 goals and 20 assists.
Of course, it’s a team sport and one person can’t win a game by himself, but Peterson is one of those special players around which a team builds. When lax fans look around the local scene, they’ve seen Jeremy Sforzo as the heart of a Battle Mountain team that won the Western Conference in 2018 and made the state quarterfinals or Luke Verratti and Tyler Hancock at Vail Mountain who did the same for the Vail Mountain School in 2017.
Peterson was the first lacrosse player like that to suit up for Eagle Valley. In 11 of 15 games last season, he scored three goals or more. That forced opponents to change game plans. Opposing teams would be in practices before Eagle Valley games, thinking, “What do we do with No. 2?”
And that opened up a whole can of worms on the rest of the field for 48 minutes on game day.
More Petersons and company
That’s because Eagle Valley had a lot more than just Philip Peterson. In fact Philip wasn’t the only Peterson in Devils’ black and red. As a freshman, Erich Peterson had an impressive campaign last spring with 13 goals and 19 assists. And new for 2020 was Julius Peterson.
Then there was Blomquist, who had 23 goals and 16 helpers last year, and Collett (10 goals last spring). The Devils had five double-digit goal scorers returning this season. If opposing defenses tried to key on Philip, which was likely, this team had numerous other ways to win.
And that’s just offense. The Devils returned a strong defense group headed up by would-have-been four-year starting goalie Mason Yurcak.
“As a teacher and a coach, I see him do things on the field and it’s cool to see it transfer to the classroom,” Gleiss said. “He’s out there making saves and playing the ball and keeping it positive and he does it in the classroom too.”
Climbing the ladder
This year’s seniors started as sophomores on varsity and it wasn’t pretty. Eagle Valley got rolled by the best in the Western Conference. Early last spring came a gigantic 13-12 win over Battle Mountain.
It was the Devils’ first over their archrivals since the very first game in the history of the program back in 2009. While the Huskies won the second match in Edwards, there was a sense that Eagle Valley was leveling the playing field.
“We sat down at the beginning of the season and the baseline goal was winning the league,” Gleiss said. “We were setting our sights on hosting a first-round playoff game, which would be the first time we did that.”