Skyhawk Seniors Sent Off in Style

The 2013 senior class for Fort Lewis has seen their share of ups and downs in the four years they have played lacrosse. With just three seniors left, Drew Larson, Aaron Blue, and Chris Shoptaugh, the class of 2013 will be known as one of the smallest classes, but they will also go down as one for which anything was possible, including defeating mighty Westminster during their freshman year in 2010. One major accomplishment had been missing from their resume until this weekend…they had never defeated the University of Northern Colorado Bears.  Mission accomplished.  Playing at home for the final two regular season games, the Skyhawks defeated rival UNC 17-12 on Saturday 4/20, and followed up that outstanding performance with a 21-7 victory over a scrappy Metro State Roadrunners squad. Those victories capped what has been a dramatic second half of the season, where the Fort won their final 7 games, went undefeated in the state of Colorado, and appear to be playing their best lacrosse just in time for playoffs. Senior leadership can’t be discounted, as the return of Chris Shoptaugh to the lineup (after missing the first half of the season with skiing commitments) has brought great speed and discipline to the once tentative offense. Drew Larson and Aaron Blue both played four consecutive years for the Skyhawks, a rarity in MCLA lacrosse, and their legacy is one of dedicated two-way play, endless hustle, big hits, and over-the-top personalities. This group will have one last hurrah in the RMLC playoffs on May 2nd-4th in Grand Junction, where two wins will ensure the Skyhawks a .500 record after a 0-8 start, and would mean a return to the conference championship game after many in the nation wrote them off. The Fort began the season as the #20 in the nation, thanks to these seniors, and a host of others, they are playing like they deserve to be back in consideration.

Northern Colorado always comes ready to play. Their mentality is a sharp contrast to the often laid back attitude and quiet confidence preached by Skyhawk coaches and players. On a picturesque Saturday morning, with clear skies, a cool breeze, 60 degree weather, and snow on the many mountain peaks visible from campus, the Bears walked into a perfect storm. The Skyhawks scored the first goal on an impressive dodge by sophomore midfielder Brooks Wilcox and never looked back. Up 3-0 quickly, the Fort would surrender a few goals thanks to penalties (a theme that would be repeated all game), but the Bears had no answer for the Skyhawk attack of Max Segal 6 goals, 3 assists, and Alex Sowers 4G, 3A. The speed and relentless pressure of the Skyhawk offense, and the brutal riding pressure of the Fort defensemen ensured that the team never surrendered the lead. The Skyhawks got a huge contribution from goalie Griffin Brill, who was playing in only his second game this season with starting goalie Chris Sowder absent due to an academic conflict. Brill made 14 saves despite the rust, and received the game ball for his clutch efforts. Despite their best efforts, and 9 minutes of Skyhawk penalties, UNC never came closer than 3 goals, finally losing 17-12. The Fort blew open the game early in the 4th quarter with consecutive goals to go up 14-9, highlighted by an explosive dodge by midfielder Michael Chase 1G, 2A who has been on a recent tear with 6G and 12A in the last 8 games.  Fort Lax got points from 7 different players, making them incredibly difficult to defend.  This was the first victory for FLC over UNC in the MCLA era, despite multiple one-goal games, and was an impressive showing to say the least against a talented and physical Bears team.

 

On senior day there was no stopping the Skyhawks, as a short-handed Metro State team came to Durango for a Sunday morning game.  Still hot from the day before, and inspired by their senior class, Fort Lax did not disappoint the home fans with a 21-7 victory, where once again the Skyhawks led from start to finish.  Nine players scored for the Fort, with unexpected contributions from defenseman Drew Larson who capped his season off with 2G and 2A, Brooks Wilcox added 3G, while Grant Arthurs, Alex Sowers, and Max Segal each had 4 goals and multiple assists.  In all, the Fort had 15 assists on their 21 goals, displaying a team game that shows their newfound maturity since returning to Colorado.  Excellent defense, patient offense, great goal keeping, hard work on ground balls, and a relentless ride will be hard to stop, and no team in the RMLC will want to face this Fort Lax squad right now.  Hopefully, two weeks off won’t cool the Skyhawks’ sticks.  Lots of respect to Metro, who won 50% of the faceoffs, and kept pressure on all game despite playing near “Iron Man” lacrosse, they played with a lot of class, and their goalie made big saves in bunches, thanks for making the long trip down to Durango.

 

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