Aspen holds off Battle Mountain, advances
EDWARDS — The news spread quickly.
“I think halfway through the third quarter,” Aspen lacrosse’s senior midfielder R.J. Peshek said.
During that third quarter of their 4A state quarterfinal match, the visiting Skiers outscored Battle Mountain, 3-0, to take a 7-4 lead, a margin they needed to hold off the Huskies in the fourth quarter for a 9-8 win on Friday, May 11.
And the big news was that, elsewhere in the bracket, No. 7 Cheyenne Mountain had upset No. 2 Thompson Valley, meaning that the Skiers get an unexpected yet very welcome home semifinal game against the Indians on Wednesday, May 16.
“This game was awesome,” Peshek said. “It was our first game playing Battle (Mountain) in two years. We just wanted to come out and play our game. We started out a bit slow. We got it done in the end.”
As for the news that No. 2 Thompson Valley went down?
“I can’t believe it,” Aspen coach David Miller said. “I’m going to lose my mind.”
Hopefully, the coach will retrieve it by Wednesday.
A rally and another rally
Aspen’s third quarter 3-0 spurt magnified a trend from the entire game — the Skiers were winning the faceoffs, and controlled possession. Sophomore Aspen attacker Robbie Fitzgerald scored with 50 seconds left in the first half to tie it at four.
And in the third, the Skiers seemingly blew it open.
Peshek scored with 11 minutes left in the frame. Ty Tullar followed three minutes later and then Jordan Hornbug got going.
The senior scored Aspen’s final three goals, and they turned out to be very necessary.
“Having Jordan score those three was definitely a momentum turner for us,” Peshek said. “He had a game and played out of his mind.”
The Huskies (13-3) did not go quietly. Down 9-5 with fewer than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Battle Mountain rallied as Jeremy Sforzo caught teammate Jayme Belyea in front of the net with a slick pass.
With 2:07 left in regulation, Tucker Morrow to Tom Boyne cut the lead to 9-7. Sforzo narrowed that to 9-8 with just 54 ticks left on the clock.
Aspen won the ensuing faceoff, but Battle Mountain’s Nick Hancock forced the turnover and advanced the ball to midfield as the Huskies called a timeout for one last gasp.
Everybody and their brother, including Aspen coach Miller, knew the ball was going to Sforzo for the game-tying attempt. The Aspen coach had game-planned for Sforzo, alternating Skiers defenders Finn Allen and Liam Rigney on the Battle Mountain senior.
“He’s a great player,” Miller said of Sforzo. “He’s a difference maker.”
And Aspen (14-2) got the stop and the win, joyously running out the clock.
Back in the locker room
Afterward, the Huskies’ locker room was a quiet one, the Aspen celebration audible through the walls.
The coaching staff gave their thanks to the team and asked the rest of the squad to applaud the seniors.
“It’s the best season Battle Mountain has ever had,” Huskies coach Jerry Nichols said. “Going 10-0 in a tough conference. We got the respect of Colorado lacrosse up and down. They earned it. We had a great senior class. I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
The Huskies certainly want a do-over for third quarter, but know that isn’t happening.
“(I’m going to remember) all of it,” Sforzo said. “This year was a blast. The seniors came together and then everyone came together. After the Littleton loss, we decided we were going to come together as a team and win games. All year we dealt with adversity and today was no different.”
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