Spring prep previews: Battle Mountain boys lacrosse heads into 2023 with new head coach
Pat Doherty returns to the Huskies, who are looking to improve upon 10-7 record from 2022
Battle Mountain boys lacrosse will have a new head coach heading into the 2023 season, but it’s a familiar name. Former Huskies assistant Pat Doherty, who coached alongside Jerry Nichols for eight seasons, will take over for Connor Compton, who was at the helm for the past four years.
“I certainly feel like there was some work still to be done and I kind of left feeling like I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to accomplish,” Doherty said. “We had some really good runs on those teams.” In his last year on the staff, the Huskies were 13-3 overall and 10-0 in the conference.
“It’s exciting to be back in the building for sure.”
Doherty spent the past season as an assistant at Eagle Valley and knows all of the area’s athletes well as he is a coach at 10th Mountain Lacrosse.
“It was really, really hard to leave Eagle Valley,” he said. “I grew close to that group of guys and we had a great season last year. It was an opportunity to come back to where I started my coaching career.”
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The Huskies lost a slew of key defensemen and midfielders to graduation, but Doherty’s standards are lofty for the group anyway.
“There are only a handful of seniors on the team this year, but they are all big contributors,” the new coach stated. “The expectations are high for this team, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done and we will certainly need to come together as a team in order to grow on last year.”
Last year, Compton led Battle Mountain to a 10-7 overall record and 5-5 league mark, punctuated by a double-overtime win over Eagle Valley in Gypsum at the end of the year. The 2022 squad was characterized by steady improvement, winning six of the last seven regular-season games (with just an overtime loss to Aspen ruining the perfect run). Doherty believes his young team can continue the trend.
“This team can be as good as they want to be if they are committed to putting in the work, which I truly believe this group of guys is,” the coach stated. “Every year we are striving to win the conference and make it to the playoffs. That has been the expectation of Battle Mountain teams for years.”
2022 overall record: 10-7 (lost to Cheyenne Mountain in first round of playoffs)
2022 league record: 5-5 (fourth)
March 17 @ Vail Mountain School, 4 p.m.
March 29 vs. Vail Mountain School, 6 p.m.
March 31 vs. Eagle Valley, 5:30 p.m.
April 14 @ Eagle Valley 5:30 p.m.
2022 stat leaders
Goals: P.J. Kessenich, 25
Assists: P.J. Kessenich, 33
Shots on goal: Nate Bishop, 58
Face-off percentage: Jack Kovacik, 0.562
Takeaways: Leo Rothenberg, 19
Ground balls: Leo Rothenberg, 61
Saves: Seth Bamford: 63
Senior Nate Bishop, who was second on the team in scoring last year with 1.5 goals per game, returns, as does junior Garret Ast (1.3 goals per game). Junior Thomas Dekanich will add even more speed to the midfield and senior Ollie Grems will be the defensive anchor.
“They are just strong returners that were big contributors last year,” Doherty said, adding that the Huskies have a wealth of talent at the goaltender position. Two juniors — Seth Bamford and Cash Case — and senior Kuba Pecinka saw playing time last season.
“Having three goalies that are super talented is a huge bonus for this program,” Doherty said. “Most schools are lucky to have one. These guys come to practice every day with the mindset that they are the starter and it creates an amazing competition amongst them.”
Doherty is also thrilled about the depth of the program as a whole.
“Could not be more excited about our freshman and sophomore classes,” he said. “I think our future is bright if the younger guys buy into the system and put the work in. We will likely have young guys making varsity contributions by the end of the season.”
Battle Mountain opens the season next Wednesday at home against Mullen, which went 7-0 to win the No. 1 League title last year. Two days later they hop into league play, heading up Interstate 70 for a meeting with the defending champion Gore Rangers.
“Every team in this conference is going to be a huge test for us,” Doherty said.
The Huskies will rematch Vail Mountain, which lost only one league game all of last season, at home on March 29. They get Eagle Valley two days later. Aspen, which had an identical league and overall record as Battle Mountain returns star midfielder Judd Gurtman, and should prove to be another tough western slope opponent.
“All of the teams have talent in this conference, so we will be grinding from day one,” Doherty said.
“We are going to try to get 1% better every day. If we do that, the cards will fall the way we want them to, which is a conference championship and a run in the state playoffs.”
The new coach believes the theme of this team extends beyond his new position or even the games at hand.
“I think the story for this group and Eagle Valley is how they are going to come together as a team and play for a lost brother,” he said in reference to Kellen Collins, the former Battle Mountain student who died by suicide on Feb. 26. Doherty was Collins’ head junior varsity coach at Eagle Valley last year. Vail Mountain, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley will all have “KC” stickers placed on the back of the teams’ helmets this season.
“I think all three teams are struggling with the loss. Losing a teammate has been really difficult for these guys (and me) and I believe they will be playing for him this season and hopefully it will be a special season in Kellen’s honor.”