Vail Mountain School boys lacrosse defeats Battle Mountain 9-6
VMS sweeps season series to improve to 3-2
Vail Mountain School boys lacrosse coach Stephen Michel said the motto of his team’s year has been, “It’s not how we start, it’s how we finish.” Wednesday night’s 9-6 win over Battle Mountain provided a microcosm of that theme.
“We finish games and we finish the season and we’re building through,” the coach said after his team used a key 5-0 second-half run to pull ahead of the Huskies and complete the season sweep of their league rivals. Coming off their March 17 win in Vail, the Gore Rangers knew the Huskies viewed that loss as having somewhat of an asterisk.
“The motivation coming in was mostly that they thought they were better but lost because they had more penalties,” said junior Brady Malboeuf, referring to the three Husky penalties which served as a catalyst for Vail Mountain’s pivotal third-quarter run in their first meeting. “This time, we showed them that we’re the better team.”
On Wednesday, the first quarter transpired in the same fashion as two weeks ago: low scoring. VMS finally put the game’s first points on the board with 5:08 remaining before Thomas Dekanich responded at the 1:38 mark to tie things up.
“It was definitely a defensive battle in the first half,” Battle Mountain head coach Pat Doherty said.
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VMS scored twice less than three minutes into the second quarter, but from there, the Huskies grabbed hold of the game’s energy. Nate Bishop scored with 6:25 to go and then tied it at 3-3 with 2:49 remaining. In the final minute, Max Larson gave Battle Mountain its first lead going into half.
The third quarter started slowly, with no scores for almost six minutes. Charlie Vidal slung an underhanded 20-yard strike on the run to make it 4-4. Thirty seconds later, Jack Pryor put the Huskies back in front. After Pryor’s score, the home team went cold as VMS showed a zone.
“They’ve got great players all over the field, and that zone kind of messed them up a little bit, and we kept them from transition. That was the key to the game on the defensive side of the field,” said Michel, who also praised the play of goalie Alex Krupka, a skier in the winter and lacrosse player in the spring.
“He’s an athlete and he’s playing goalie for us because he hurt his back, so he’s not able to play on the field as much,” Michel said. “But he’s attacking his position like he’d attack the downhill.”
The coaching staff gave Krupka the green light to get out and run a bit from the goal position. “So, we were able to run a little bit more in the second half than we had been doing to this point,” Michel said.
Mason Geller got the first fast-break goal with 4:44 left in the period. Max Vidal scored shortly after to give VMS the lead once again. Then, three straight goals from Malboeuf broke the game open.
“You know I just ended up in the right position right in front of the crease,” the junior said of his game-changing scoring spree. “It was really my friends dodging, giving me the perfect pass so I could execute.”
“In the second half, really the difference was transition goals,” Doherty said.
“We had a couple mistakes where we slid a little too early and they took advantage of it. Really, at the end of the day, this game is won and lost with ground balls and they got a couple of ground balls and were able to spin it quick and capitalize on it for sure.”
Keelan Losa would convert on a late-fourth-quarter goal to make it 9-6, but the Huskies fell to 2-3 with the loss.
“These guys have worked their tails off for the past week,” Doherty said of his squad, which had a week-long hiatus between a 7-6 loss to Aspen on March 21 and Wednesday’s game.
“We’re making steady improvements; our goal is get one-percent better every day and they have. I think a couple mistakes in the middle of the field there led to transition goals and that was really the difference in the game,” the coach continued.
“These seniors wanted it really bad but we still have a long season and this team is going to continue to get better and I’m still confident we’re going to make a good run. That was a good team we faced and who knows, maybe we’ll see them again.”
Though his team improved to 3-2 with the victory, Michel senses little room for error in a relatively even 4A Western Slope.
“Battle Mountain is a heck of a team and they’re going to be there at the end,” the coach said. “The conference is tight this year.”
Battle Mountain returns to the field on Friday at 5:30 p.m. to face Eagle Valley (4-1) in Edwards. Vail Mountain School has the weekend off before hosting the Devils next Tuesday.