Despite effects of March snow, Summit High boys, girls lacrosse settle into new season
Summit High School girls lacrosse coach Merri McKissock said the start to this spring sports season has been a particularly interesting contrast to this time last year.
Twelve months ago, after a winter light on snowfall, McKissock’s girls lacrosse program and the rest of Summit High School’s spring sports teams began practices and games in spring-like weather, outside every day. This year, though, has been the polar opposite, as March 2019 will go down as one of the heaviest snowfall months in recent Summit County history.
Feet upon feet of snow? It’s ideal for ski resorts and local powder hounds. But for high school sports teams that are affected by the High Country’s long winters during typical months of March, this month has been on another level.
For coach McKissock’s girls lacrosse program, that meant two games and four practices had to be canceled earlier this month during the opening stretch of the season. The team’s first five practices were all held indoors, as players split time between the gymnasium and the high school’s new indoor turf. Then, the first time the team ventured outside, McKissock said they couldn’t dig out the lacrosse nets buried in the snow.
“It was tough,” McKissock said, “because our first game where we saw a real field with nets, the lines down, was our first game, against Conifer. So that was tough to go out and play on the field for the first time this season. They were on their third game already, we already had two games canceled, so we were just getting started.”
The girls lacrosse team lost that game to Conifer and now sits at 2-2 on the young season. Their Tiger boys lacrosse counterparts are 1-2 on the year after they too were affected by the snow and the tail end of competitive ski seasons for several Tigers athletes.
The lacrosse programs aren’t the only ones affected by the weather, as the Summit High baseball and soccer teams have also made the most of practice time and locations while both teams also have had games postponed.
That said, both McKissock and Summit High boys lacrosse head coach Matty Marks said their squads have taken Mother Nature’s hurdles in stride as best they can. Marks spoke highly of the indoor turf field, describing it as an ideal spot to conduct the kind of short-field lacrosse drills that facilitate skill improvements.
“Just got to adapt,” Marks said on Wednesday, a day after his short-handed, injury-riddled team lost 14-2 at Steamboat Springs.
While McKissock’s girls lacrosse team has surfed the unsteady early part of a season where returning seniors and newcomers have slowly learned to play together, Marks’ boys team has suffered several injuries. On Wednesday Marks said three-quarters of the boys team’s senior starters were currently out with injuries, several to concussions suffered on snow and some suffered on turf. To make matters more difficult, during last Friday’s loss to Vail Mountain School, Summit senior star Max Duxbury — who scored five goals in the Tigers’ sole victory this year — was forced out of the game due to pneumonia.
Despite the setbacks and 1-2 mark to start the year, Marks is hopeful the injuries will not only open up opportunities for younger players, but he hopes it will help the team manifest more skilled depth for later in the season once their seniors return from their various ailments. Marks sees this as an opportunity for younger players to prove themselves. Beyond Summit’s seniors, the Tigers have talent such as younger captains, like Timothy Gallagher, a defenseman, Alexi Urtusuastegui-Nevarez, an attack and midfielder, and sophomore Andrew Duxbury, a long-stick midfielder. Marks also said the squad has the potential to be one of the more athletic teams in the area, as players such as sophomores Cam Kalaf, Noah Martens, Jagger Koch, Connor Davis, Dane Gerry, Alec Murray, Matthew Shaffer and William Wagner have the potential to rise up.
“It’s next-man-up philosophy,” Marks said. “You’ve got a lot of sophomores playing varsity right now, and they are doing pretty good. It’s opening up the door for some of these younger players. The idea that no one is so important to the team that we can’t play without them. So we are going through that process.”
For McKissock’s team, they’ve leaned on senior veterans such as captains Maddi Markel, Maison Keen and Aldyn Hart through their 2-2 start. Fellow vets Annika Fowles, Bridget Costello, Katie Fischer and goalie Alice Porter have also provided leadership. McKissock also highlighted junior defender Natalie Anderson for her strong defensive play thus far this season.
Moving forward, McKissock is confident the Tigers girls can reach the .500-plateau this year, especially if they embrace a higher level of aggression out there on the turf. After a season-opening loss to Conifer, the coach said she’s seen a strong response from her team as they take it day by day. The Summit boys will return to action on Friday at Vail Mountain School at 4 p.m., while the girls travel to Fruita for a game at the same time.
“We don’t worry about the past and what happened with that game,” McKissock said. “We learn our lesson from that and applied it to be more successful in the future games.”
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