Spring Preps Spotlight: Summit lacrosse’s Sawyer March and Matt Francomano, plus soccer’s Marin Pennell | SummitDaily.com

Spring Preps Spotlight: Summit lacrosse’s Sawyer March and Matt Francomano, plus soccer’s Marin Pennell

Interviewed by Phil Lindeman
The Summit High boys lacrosse team huddles during halftime at a game earlier this season.
Phil Lindeman / plindeman@summitdaily.com |

Editor’s note: This is Part Two of a three-part interview series with Summit High School spring sports stars. To read the complete interviews, including Part One with girls lacrosse and track and Part Three with playoff-bound baseball all-stars, see the sports section at SummitDaily.com.

It’s been a rollercoaster spring for Summit High boys lacrosse and girls soccer.

After a slow 1-3 start to the season, the lacrosse team knocked off Steamboat Springs for the first time in at least five years on April 4. The Tigers then went 4-2 over the next two weeks before losing a heartbreaker on April 18 against (who else?) Steamboat.

The soccer season is almost the exact opposite. After a promising start, including a 2-1 victory over a tough Battle Mountain squad on March 17, the Lady Tigers cooled off and have won just a single game since then. The defeats aren’t blowouts — Summit hasn’t lost by more than two goals all season, if you don’t count the 0-4 and 1-6 routs against No. 1 Palisade — and only tell half the story of a gritty, talented team.

Before spring break, the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with three senior leaders on the two teams — lacrosse’s Matt Francomano and Sawyer March, and soccer’s Marin Pennell — for a chat about the season, their high school careers and why nothing compares to a fat bowl of mom’s spaghetti and meat sauce before a lacrosse game.

Matt Francomano | No. 5 Tigers lacrosse

Tigers senior midfielder Matt Francomano is the unsung hero of his team’s hard-hitting attack. While junior Vale Hildebrand and senior Braden Cross lead Summit in scoring, 10-year lacrosse veteran Francomano and his fellow mids have mastered the ball control needed to keep momentum on their side through four quarters of play. It’s led to key wins this season, including that once-in-a-career win against Steamboat, and boosted the Tigers into post-season contention. At 3-3 in the 4A Western Slope, the boys are ranked third in the league with five games remaining, including home rivalry matches against Eagle Valley on April 25 and Battle Mountain on May 4.

First lacrosse memory: I started playing lacrosse in second grade. I didn’t know much about the sport, but my dad convinced me and my sibling to try it out at a clinic going on. After day one, both me and my brother fell in love. We switched from baseball to lacrosse mainly because of the fast pace and physicality of the sport — it was overall just a more team-involved sport.

My lacrosse highlight: Before I came to Summit, I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. My freshmen year was one of the best years of lacrosse that my previous high school, Lake Norman Charter, had ever seen. We were always a strong team, but something that year clicked — it was about the team as a whole, rather than individual effort. Anyways, we went on to become conference champions, beating our rival school, Lake Norman, for the first time ever. (It’s) something I will always rub in my older brother’s face for never accomplishing.

My favorite memory off the field: Seeing my old coach laugh and smile. For the people here in Summit they do not know my old coach Wheil, but he was the most strict, straightforward guy you would ever meet. He intimidated most kids, but after you got to know him, he was a pretty cool guy.

If I weren’t playing lacrosse…: I would be playing lacrosse because it is the greatest sport alive.

Pre-game meal: Pasta with my mom’s meat sauce.

Post-win celebration: Go to Northside and get a big mammoth pizza and some wings.

Pump-up music: Some good EDM always gets my pumped for working out. It gets me in a happy, energized mood.

My pre-game ritual: I’m not a big ritual guy. The best way for me to get in my zone is to cancel out everything around me and listen to music to get me in the right mindset for the game.

Biggest rival on the field: Myself. I am very picky about how I play, and I’m sometimes more mad after a victory than a loss just because of how I might have played in the game.

Sawyer March | No. 2 Tigers lacrosse

When your email address includes “lacrosse” and “Summit,” you know you’re obsessed, and for senior goalie Sawyer March, that obsession has made him a hell of a player. He’s been a stonewall in the net for the Tigers all season, averaging 20-25 saves per game and allowing fewer than 10 points in less than half of the team’s games. Here’s the kicker: Since April 4, the starter has allowed more than 10 points just once — Summit’s 1-16 outlier loss to Conifer on April 8 — while the team has enjoyed a 4-2 record. As the goalie goes, so goes the team.

First lacrosse memory: The first time I played lacrosse I loved it; however, I was awful at it. I couldn’t even cradle the ball. It wasn’t until my second or third practice when I started playing goalie. I instantly knew it was what I was supposed to do.

My lacrosse highlight: Earlier this season when we beat Steamboat for the first time in over six years. This was a highlight because in the previous season we had played very well against them and lost by one point, which made us want the win even more. Also, it was a highlight because of the last-second save I made to keep the game from going into overtime.

My favorite memory off the field: Practice, when I make a crazy save right on the crease. It’s really fun to have all of my teammates cheer you on during practice.

If I weren’t playing lacrosse…: I would probably be playing baseball. I used to play baseball and my entire family has played at a high level, so I have a passion for the game.

Pre-game meal: Pasta with meatballs.

Post-win celebration: Just hang out with my friends and talk about the game.

Pump-up music: In the locker room before the games and practice there is always rap being blasted over the speakers, which wouldn’t be my choice, but it is better than nothing.

My pre-game ritual: One pre-game ritual is to have a big bowl of pasta the night before a big game. I’m not sure how this got started, but it has always worked for me.

Biggest rival on the field: My biggest rival is by far Eagle VallEy. I am good friends with most of the kids on their team through summer club lacrosse, and it is always fun to play them and beat them.

Marin Pennell | No. 4 Lady Tigers soccer

After a decade on the soccer pitch, senior Marin Pennell’s career highlight is easy: her team’s 2-1 victory against bitter rivals Battle Mountain earlier this season. It doesn’t happen often — the Lady Tigers hadn’t beaten the Huskies once since Pennell joined the team in 2014 — and Pennell’s defense played a key role in the win. She’s the lone senior starter in the Summit backfield, where she plays alongside sophomore Grace Karoly, junior Haleigh Lecklitner and her sister, sophomore CeCe Pennell.

First soccer memory: The first time I played soccer I was very hesitant about it. My mom and sister were very involved in the sport and I wanted to do something different, but my friends convinced me to. Once I started I just sort of never stopped. I loved it and the people who played it, so it was easy to continue doing.

My soccer highlight: Beating Battle Mountain the other day. They’ve easily been the best team in the league before and we’ve gotten mercy ruled by them more than once. To play at a high level and actually pull off the win was super exciting.

My favorite memory off the field: Last year, we didn’t have a set back-up goalie for JV, so when they were low on numbers varsity would go play goalie. I got to play goalie a couple times and it was super fun. There was no pressure because everyone knew I had no idea what was happening, and it was cool to make saves and just relax and have fun with it.

If I weren’t playing soccer…: I would be playing rugby. I am already doing things to train for it and have gone to one tournament already, and have another one coming up in June. So if soccer wasn’t on the table, I’d be focusing fully on rugby and preparing for next season coming up in the fall.

Pre-game meal: I’ll really eat anything. Most of our games are right after school, so I’ll just have a sandwich and granola bars or something like that. I try to have a bigger lunch though, with pasta and a lot of snacks.

Post-win celebration: My favorite way to celebrate is to hang out with my friends or family and eat.

Pump-up music: I don’t usually listen to music while I work out. Whatever is playing on the radio or in the gym is usually fine.

My pre-game ritual: I try to get mad. It helps me focus and I always play better that way. My hockey coach a few years back figured it out, but I didn’t try it until this rugby season, when we played our biggest rival. It worked, so now I do it whenever I have time before a game.

Biggest rival on the field: I think our biggest rival is Battle Mountain. They’re close to home, so we see them a lot in other sports and there is a lot of emotion tied to our soccer games. They used to mercy rule us, which is never fun, and now we’ve been playing them closely, so the intensity is high and we put a lot into all of our games against them.

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