Lady Tigers eye varsity status after perfect season
GOLDEN – It was only the first day of practice, but Karl Barth smelled disaster. This was the group that was to be the first-ever Summit High School girls lacrosse team? These girls, many of whom could barely throw and catch? Barth didn’t know what to think, so he asked a veteran of the former club program, SHS sophomore Hilary Morris, who would go on to become one of the team’s captains. “Is it always like this?”Morris’ reply: “This is the best practice we’ve ever had!”Barth, a veteran of high school coaching for more than a decade, thought to himself, This is the worst practice I’ve ever been a part of. Then he went home and wondered what in the name of decent hand-eye coordination he had gotten himself into.Fast-forward two months, to Tuesday. The same group of girls who’d bumbled around the gym that first day in the middle of winter routed Golden’s JV team, 8-2, completing an undefeated season that nobody saw coming.
“I don’t think the girls took the field – and I know I didn’t take the job – to lose,” Barth said Wednesday. “But I really had no idea.”Not surprisingly, Tuesday’s victory came with relative ease. Brie Barto scored three times with two assists, Jaclin Limone added a hat trick, Sydney Schwab scored once and assisted on another goal, and Catie Woessner buried one goal. Goalie Bobby Bouchard made four saves in net for the Tigers, and her defensive efforts were complemented by back-line leader Bayley Donahue, who was named player of the game.Nobody can deny that the Tigers went 10-0 this year against a schedule filled exclusively by JV opponents. However, anyone who claims foul, who says Summit had it easy by playing only JV teams, consider this: the Tigers themselves only had three upperclassmen – two juniors and a senior – on their 26-player roster. The youth and inexperience didn’t faze the eager players who persevered through a wear-and-tear season. The only time Summit even stepped foot outside to practice was “a couple days where we went out and did some ground balls on the little patch of grass” just outside the school, Barth said. With weather postponements and spring breaks (Summit’s and all the Denver schools’) to work around, the Tigers went a full month at one point without playing any games. All they did was practice an outside game inside a suffocating gymnasium (just as all the other SHS squads did).Yet despite those hurdles, the Tigers stayed focused. They won three straight games, all in the same week, in which they scored the last four goals of the game to either break a tie or erase a deficit. (Most games weren’t as close, such as the 16-0 tail whipping they administered Evergreen.)Along the way, the team’s chemistry blossomed.
“In the beginning we were kind of separated because of friend groups and stuff,” said Steph Snyder, a sophomore tri-captain, “but toward the end of the season we started working together and became more of a team.”Barto, a freshman, was easily the team’s most productive and talented player on the offensive end; she scored a team-best 16 goals and added 15 assists to finish with 31 points, 15 more than any other Tiger. “The thing I like the best about Brie is there were games where she could’ve taken the ball every time and scored, but she looked to set people up,” Barth said.Freshman Jeana Holman scored 13 goals, Snyder finished with 12 and Limone added nine. Victoria Strassler (six goals, six assists), Morris (five goals, four assists), Woessner (six goals, one assist) and Schwab (five goals, two assists) also chipped in to the scoring attack.On defense, Barth said a pair of players stood out from the rest in their unselfish, aggressive and at times smothering play: Donahue and Hannah Barton. Junior tri-captain Morgan Major and Sarah Schwartz also proved formidable defensive components, while assistant coach Merri McKissock fine tuned the unit.In goal, Bouchard compiled a goals-against average of just 2.4 while saving 62 percent of the shots she saw, superb numbers for such a high-scoring sport, especially coming from a first-year player.
As for the program’s next step, Barth said the squad will likely push for varsity status next season, where he expects the Tigers to “take some lumps.” “It’s going to be a rough transition year,” he said. “It’s a big step up.” After an undefeated season, however, it’s the only logical step. Even the precocious players know that.”I think he’s right,” Morris said of her coach. “I’ve seen the top teams play and we’re not there at all yet.”She paused, then added: “There’ll definitely be some bumps in the road and it won’t be easy, but I really believe we can get there.”Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at email@example.com.
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