Vail Mountain School advances to Elite 8
EAST VAIL — The answer is Windsor.
When it is asked, “Whom did Vail Mountain School lacrosse beat for its first playoff win,” the Wizards are the answer.
No. 4-ranked VMS advanced to the Elite Eight with a 12-8 win over No. 13 Windsor at Bandoni Alumni Field in East Vail, which had a distinctly orange postseason tint for its first postseason lacrosse game.
“It feels great,” Gore Rangers defender Peter Tice said. “We came into this game. We were hungry. We wanted this win, and we couldn’t be happier to play Conifer or whoever we play on Friday.”
VMS will host the winner of Wednesday’s game between Conifer and Durango.
Darn kids making noise
It’s actually kind of funny.
VMS let out school early on Wednesday, as is tradition for postseason tilts. Though Bandoni Alumni Field will never be confused with an NFL stadium, a bigger, louder crowd was still an adjustment early for the Gore Rangers (14-2)
“It was definitely really loud on the sidelines,” Tice said. “The kids were really loud. We stepped up and talked a lot more.”
While VMS was getting its playoff legs and adjusting to a loud and supportive orange-clad student body, Windsor got off to a 3-1 lead on markers by Nick Shermock, Tayt Gallatlan and Nate Huntsman.
But VMS gave the tykes something for which to cheer.
“I’d say in the first quarter there was a really good save by (goalie) Nick (Charles),” Tyler Hancock said. “He did a really a good job in net back there and the confidence we had in him allowed to get our groove.”
The familiar combination of Luke Verratti to Hancock pulled VMS to within 3-2 after the first period.
While Charles was outstanding, particularly in the third period, another turning point might have been Henry Hancock stealing a Windsor clear and zipping the ball to Veratti for a goal to start the second.
VMS didn’t waste any time building on that momentum as Tyler Hancock won the ensuing faceoff and went “Sicilian,” running straight up the gut for a goal seven seconds later.
The Gore Rangers’ Griffin O’Connell and Luke Verratti built their team’s lead to 6-4 before the Wizards’ Andrew Bloss scored with two ticks left in the half.
Closing it out
While a late goal just before half could have rattled VMS, the Gore Rangers ended up taking over the game. Up 6-5 at the break, VMS scored the next six goals.
“I felt like we were going to win the game,” VMS coach Bobby Ecker said of halftime. “At least, I felt that way. We knew what we needed to do.”
Kyle Negomir started his, courtesy of Dylan Hardenbergh. And since it seems no VMS lacrosse game is complete without some wondrous Hancock moment, Ler, as he is known to his teammates, went behind-the-back. Verratti and Negomir made it 10-5 at the end of three.
Todger Davis and O’Connell upped the lead to 12-5 in the fourth.
While winning on Wednesday was not the ultimate goal, it was a landmark. The Gore Rangers loved having the school out for the game.
“It’s great being here, playing for VMS for four years now, seeing a really big crowd, it really motivates you and makes you proud to be representing the Vail Mountain School,” Hancock said.
VMS will have a quick turnaround with Conifer or Durango coming to town on Friday.
No one probably needs to remind the team that Conifer beat VMS, 13-8, last year in the playoffs.
Ecker thinks his team is ready.
“I think that was one of the better games we’ve played all year,” the coach said. “We’re getting closer to that 48-minute game.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.