Battle Mountain girls lacrosse season comes to an end in second round of 4A state tournament
Huskies lost to Thompson Valley 21-9 in cold and wet conditions
Maybe it’s because Battle Mountain’s 2023 girls lacross campaign included so few lows and several notable highs — a program-first league title, the ending of Aspen’s 57-game league winning streak, and a season sweep of their down valley rivals — that having it end now feels too soon.
The Huskies’ season came to a close in the second round of the 4A state girls lacrosse tournament on Thursday in Loveland. After falling behind 17-4 in the first half, head coach Mat Ballay’s crew battled with No. 8-seed Thompson Valley but ultimately came up short in a 21-9 loss.
“The girls we were playing were ready to roll, they were into it and they didn’t care that it was wet and cold,” Ballay said of the Eagles, who finished second at state last year, and who scored three goals in the opening minute.
“They didn’t take their foot off the gas.”
Ballay said the theme of his halftime speech was that no one — coaches or players — was going to quit.
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“We had to just keep fighting and we were going to do everything we could to try and claw our way back into the game and we needed them to do the same thing on the field,” he recalled.
“And I’m proud of our girls because they didn’t quit — they played hard to the end.”
Abby Dembeck led the way with four goals and freshman Palmer Ulvestad added two. Audrey Knight, Molly Kessenich and Isabelle Adochio also scored for the Huskies, who finished the season with a 12-5 overall record and a 9-1 league mark. With three junior varsity players getting significant minutes and even scoring a goal on Thursday, Ballay is excited about the program’s future.
“I’m really enthusiastic about next year and all these players. We have a really deep program,” he said, offering credit to both Vail Valley Lacrosse and his junior varsity coaching staff for developing the local talent.
“They’re doing a really good job of teaching the fundamentals and coaching them up,” he said.
“We can plug in these JV players and they don’t really skip a beat. They know how to handle it, they play at the right pace, they understand what we’re doing. So I think those feeders are doing a really good job.”
Looking back on the season, all five of the Huskies’ losses were against elite competition. They fell to the defending state champion Green Mountain team on March 28, the runner-ups in Thompson Valley on Thursday, the No. 4 seed in this year’s 4A tournament, Denver South, by one goal on April 29, and a 5A school in Denver East on March 13. Their other loss — the only league blemish — was to Roaring Fork, which they avenged with a win on May 2.
“I’m intentionally trying to give us the hardest schedule possible in order to expose them,” the coach said.
“They see what that level looks like and it’s good for them, and I learn a thing or two when I’m coaching games like that, too.”
Overall, the third-year coach feels the team is continuing to move forward.
“The conference championship is another step in the right direction. Last year we made it to the quarterfinals, that was a step in the right direction,” he said.
“Our next goal as a program is we need to be competitive with these top four and five teams in the state. That’s what we have to build to.”