VMS beats Huskies as both honor a friend
EDWARDS — In one of the most delightful aspects of sports, Vail Mountain School and Battle Mountain lacrosse spent the good portion of two hours on Tuesday trying to beat the heck out of each other, only to join together after the game, a 10-8 Gore Rangers win.
Battle Mountain white and VMS blue intermingled in a postgame ceremony to honor Huskies alumnus and lacrosse player Mac Kelsall, Class of 2015, who died during an accident while camping last summer.
Huskies head coach Jerry Nichols and assistant coach Pat Doherty gave remembrances of Kelsall dedicating a plaque that will go beyond the northern end zone of Battle Mountain’s multipurpose field. The team also retired Kelsall’s No. 19 with his family, father, Matt, mother, Jill and older brother, Owen, saying a few words, thanking the gathering at midfield.
“This event was a stepping stone to healing overall,” Owen said after the ceremony. “We always try to think of him, feel him and keep him with us. We always think of him as here.”
The ceremony ended on an upbeat note as Otis Day and the Knights’ version of “Shout” blared through the public-address system.
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“It’s definitely intense on the field, but, once it’s over, we’re all friends, from the same spot, like-minded people,” VMS senior Dylan Hardenbergh said.
That echoed Nichols’ sentiment of his talk that the world of lacrosse is a community, and VMS coach Bobby Ecker agreed completely.
“It’s special. It’s so special to have all of us get together after a big game. Lacrosse is one of those games where you’re enemies on the field and loving brothers after,” Ecker said. “These guys all play together in the summertime and in fall ball. It’s just really special to see this community come together.”
As for the game itself, VMS made a statement, completing a season sweep of the Huskies for the first time.
The Gore Rangers are 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Western Conference, easily the best start in the short history of the varsity program. But before everyone associated with VMS orders tickets to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Ecker tapped the brakes a little bit.
“I think we’re going to be taking it one game at a time,” the coach said. “We’ve got a big game against Aspen coming up. After that, we have Summit. Obviously, our goal is to make the playoffs and go far, but it’s one game at a time.”
Slowing it down was key for VMS as the Huskies exchanged goals and hits throughout the 48 minutes.
“We were trying to slow the pace down a little bit,” Hardenbergh said. “We were in the penalty box too much. They got a lot of man-up goals, which hurt us. It was just winning possession and getting ground balls. Ground balls win games.”
VMS appeared to be breaking away during the third quarter with consecutive goals from Luke Verratti (twice) and Hardenbergh for 8-5 lead.
To Battle Mountain’s credit, the Huskies pulled even during the fourth quarter, which has been a problem so far this season. Cal Masler scored during the third and Huskies sophomore Tom Boyne found the net twice, both courtesy of Jeremy Sforzo, to tie it at eight with 7:18 left in the game.
Hardenberg from Verratti with 5:09 left proved to be the game-winner and Shane Cole added some insurance for VMS with 4:23 remaining.
VMS hosts Aspen on Thursday in nonconference play in what should be a good test. Battle Mountain (0-5, 0-2) hosts Eagle Valley on Tuesday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org.