Harrow Team Colorado wins it all
VAIL – With two goalies who spent the qualifying rounds doing a great impersonation of the Berlin Wall, stacked offenses featuring world-class players like Bill Edell, Chad Wittman, Kyle Barrie and Topher Larson, the Vail/Avon Lacrosse Shootout’s second seed Harrow Team Colorado and surprise championship-qualifer, GMH, squared off under clear skies and in front of a packed house at Ford Park for a championship game that would prove to be the highlight of the tournament.
With such evenly matched talent, the championship was always going to come down to the little things: the ground balls picked up, the clears made and the big saves by the goalies.
So, it was no surprise that a largely mistake-free first half by both teams resulted in a 5-4 score at the intermission, with Harrow Team Colorado going up by one with 11 seconds left in the second quarter on a Randy Fraser goal.
While GMH looked tough in the start of the second half, Colorado, as it has done to opponents throughout this tournament, picked up the offensive pace to outscore GMH 5-1 in the third quarter.
The effort was enough to propel Harrow to a 12-8 victory over GMH.
“It was a team effort,” said Harrow Team Colorado Coach Max Caulkins after the postgame beers had started to flow. “Because it was a team effort, we didn’t get the individual recognition as far as having our boys make the tournament All-Star team. But we won the championship and it is just great that a team from Colorado won this event.”
Anchoring the win was goalie Jeff Nunziato who had another stellar day in the net with 11 saves. Nunziato and the rest of the Colorado defensive crew held a powerhouse GMH offense to a mere eight goals. The GMH attack included tournament MVP and Johns Hopkins University All-American, Kyle Barry, who was able to only score twice in the game.
“We did what we were doing all week,” said Nunziato of Colorado’s stifling defense. “We knew that if we played our game, the championship would be ours.”
“We also know we can count on our offense to score,” added Nunziato. “It
makes it easy for the defense.”
With a second-half offense that seemed impossible to stop, the Colorado attack was led by midfielder Jason Buttles with three assists and attackman Dudley Dixon with two goals and two assists. Bill Edell and Chad Whittman each scored twice, including an amazing behind-the-back effort by Whittman with four minutes left in the game to ice the victory.
In the Shootout’s Consolation Championship matchup, Merrill Lynch backed up coach P.J. Landaiche’s prediction of consolation honors for his squad with a convincing 14-5 victory over Fubar.
Merrill Lynched rolled off five unanswered goals in the second quarter to outdistance a flat Fubar squad that looked as if they’d spent a few too many late nights at their eponymous sponsor.
Merrill Lynch standout attackman Devan Spilker had four goals and one assist in the victory. With the effort Spilker, the Division II College player of the year, capped off an explosive tournament which saw him earn Shootout All-Star honors as the top scorer from any team during the event.
“We beat the No. 4-ranked team in the Shootout to get into the consolation championship game,” said Landaiche of a Merrill Lynch gang that was surprisingly ranked as the lowest seed – 16th – upon entering the tourney.
“We really hope we can get farther next year. Third or fourth place would be a really successful tournament for us.”