Roaring Fork lax comes up short in playoff loss to Conifer
A promising season came to a frustrating end Tuesday at Carbondale Middle School as the No. 16 Roaring Fork Rams girls lacrosse team dropped a 20-9 decision to the No. 17 Conifer Lobos in the first round of girls lacrosse state playoffs.
In its first year as a varsity program, the Rams accomplished quite a few firsts, including hosting a playoff game under head coach Jason Rusby. Against the Lobos, the Rams looked to assert themselves as a true power in the state of Colorado, but the Rams got off to a slow start Thursday on the big stage, falling behind by as many as 10 goals against the experienced Lobos, leading to the first-round loss.
“When you’re going up against big schools, it’s hard to really match up with bigger schools with the limited number of players that we have available here in the valley,” said Rusby.
“Conifer was just really skilled with the ball and gave us a tough time. It was hard to stick with them.”
Early on, the Lobos mounted a couple of attacks to put the Rams on their heels. Freshman goalkeeper Yahjairi Castillon stood tall for the Rams, though, making two early stick saves to keep the Lobos off the board.
Conifer’s Adde Hollander solved Castillon one minute, 24 seconds in the game, though, taking a feed from Abigail Sundquist before firing the shot into the back of the net, giving the visiting Lobos an early 1-0 lead.
Despite the early first goal for Conifer, Roaring Fork didn’t blink, at least initially, as sophomore Libby Claassen answered right back for the Rams in just 21 seconds, capping off a long run by drawing a penalty and finishing off the penalty shot, knotting up the playoff game at 1-all early on.
After Claassen’s strike squared things up at 1-1, the Lobos ripped off 10 straight goals to take an 11-1 lead late in the first half as Hollander scored her second of the game, Alissa Rumin scored three, Kassidy Butler scored three, and Sundquist scored two to put the Lobos in the driver’s seat. Nearly every goal was identical for the Lobos, as Conifier worked the ball around the perimeter of the attacking zone and found cutters moving through the circle for high-chance looks on the doorstep in front of the net. Late in the first half, Sundquist swept right to left behind the net and fired a perfect pass over the top of the net to Rumin in front, who fired a strike into the upper left corner of the net, forcing a Roaring Fork timeout.
Following the stoppage, the Rams responded with three goals in the final three minutes of the first half as sophomore Gabby Narby bounced a shot in from the left wing just under the Conifer goalkeeper’s stick to make it 11-2 with 2:14 left in the first half. Then sophomore Riley Dolan won a faceoff and sprinted the length of the field, bashing a goal in off of the Conifer goalie’s stick to make it 11-3 with 1:36 left.
The Rams then received a fortunate bounce as senior Francesca Williams pressured the Conifer goalie on a clearing attempt, blocking the pass right back into the net for Roaring Fork’s fourth goal of the game.
“We finally started to win some draws and possess the ball,” said Rusby. “When you win draws and maintain possession, you have to capitalize, and that’s what we started to do in that quick run.”
Despite the quick rally, the Rams let up a late goal to Conifer right before the halftime buzzer, sending the two teams into the intermission with the Lobos holding a 12-4 lead.
Coming out of halftime, Roaring Fork looked to build off of the momentum generated late in the first half. However, Conifer wouldn’t let the Rams back into the game as Sundquist struck 1:20 into the second half to make it 13-4. Much like the start of the first half, Roaring Fork quickly responded to make it 13-5 as sophomore Samantha Ferry sprinted down the middle of the field, broke in on goal all alone and bounced a shot home, keeping the deficit at eight goals.
The two teams then traded goals as Conifer struck again from in front of the net before Claassen scored on a penalty shot, making it 14-6. Conifer answered back on a penalty shot from Hollander to make it 15-6, before the Lobos ripped off three more goals to take an 18-6 lead.
Facing a 12-goal deficit, the Rams refused to quit in front of the home fans. Williams received a feed from junior Lesci Glenn in front of the net, firing a bouncing shot home to make it 18-7.
Narby then scored her second goal of the game, taking a feed from junior Bella Lee wide open in front of the net, firing a strike past the Lobos’ goalie to make it 18-8. Conifer then added two goals to make it 20-8 before Claassen scored again on a penalty shot late in the game, capping off the 20-9 loss in the first round.
Despite the loss to Conifer, ending its playoff run, the Roaring Fork Rams girls lacrosse team, made up of players from Roaring Fork, Basalt and Glenwood Springs, have plenty to be proud of. In its first year at the varsity level, the Rams were the No. 1 team in the state in early April, finished 10-3 on the year prior to the playoffs, and earned a home first-round playoff game under Rusby. The Rams did all of this as a self-funded program too, as players, coaches, and parents raised more than $10,000 this season to make sure the program had uniforms, could travel to games, and fund anything else the program needed this season.
“We’ve got some really good girls in there that are really dedicated to the game,” said Rusby. “The girls are so much more coachable than the boys. They appreciate the coaches and the work we put in to coach them, and we play like a boys team, which is much different than how other girls programs work.
“We want to shoot a lot and play up-tempo. It’s been a lot of fun this year, and we’re excited for the future.”
The Rams say goodbye to six seniors after the loss: Hannah Cole, Brooke Knutson, Lizzie Allender, Payton Issel, Hanna Feder and Francesca Williams.
Conifer moves on to the second round, where they’ll travel to No. 1 Colorado Academy on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
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After bowing out of the 3A state soccer playoffs in the quarterfinals and semifinals the past two seasons, the Roaring Fork Rams finally get their shot at a state title on Saturday.