GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The final scores of the Glenwood Springs High School lacrosse team this season haven’t been pretty. Demons coach Rick Stevens readily admits that.
Still, the fourth-year Glenwood coach said that, compared to past seasons, this one has been a thing of beauty.
“This is a game of intelligence,” Stevens said. “They were playing real smash-mouth lacrosse. There were maybe one or two guys who played that carried the team, and everyone else just kind of stood around and watched.
“We had one-third of the team that had long sticks and just wanted to play defense,” he continued. “I asked why, and they said, “We don’t want to pass and catch. We just want to knock guys down.”
That was a far cry from the philosophy that’s long been engraved into the persona of Stevens, who grew up in lacrosse-crazy Syracuse, N.Y., and actually played with lacrosse sticks that were made by American Indians. So Stevens began implementing the kind of lacrosse he grew up around, which involved ball control, keeping the ball up in the air and playing clean. That at least set the foundation for more strategically played lacrosse matches as opposed to games where Glenwood would spend an average of 18 minutes of a 48-minute game with a player in the penalty box.
This season, the progress is showing not necessarily in the scores of the varsity games, but with the younger players in the program’s junior varsity program. Also a factor has been the growth of the high school program through a youth lacrosse feeder program called the Roaring Fork Lacrosse Club, an asset that powerful programs like Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Battle Mountain have had at their disposal for years.
In all, though losses by double-figure point totals have continued to happen this season, opposing teams have commented on the overall improvement of Glenwood’s players this season.
“The guys who really notice it are the referees,” Stevens said. “We get the same refs a lot, and they’ve come up to us and told us we’re really getting better. Even the Battle Mountain coach, Jerry Nichols [also a native of upstate New York], said the same thing.
“But he added,” Stevens continued, “that it will take us a while to get there since we’ve been lacking this feeder program we just got.”
Still, that feeder program helped produce a JV team that played close games with the likes of Aspen and Steamboat, and players from Roaring Fork and Basalt high schools are now coming through those programs with more base knowledge of the game than previous Glenwood players.
What’s more, the Demons have a chance to showcase some of the things they’ve learned from playing traditional league powers like Steamboat, Battle Mountain and Aspen right from the get go. During those first four losses — which included a 21-0 loss to Steamboat — senior Thomas Hooker and freshman Sam Liotta are the team’s leading goal scorers.
Stevens is pretty optimistic about the upcoming stretch of games for Glenwood, though. They pick up play again on April 4 against Grand Junction, and the fourth-year coach feels like his squad learned quite a bit from playing what arguably are three of the best teams on the Western Slope.
“There’s no doubt our guys learned something,” the coach said. “I think we have a chance to show that now.”