A love for lacrosse

More and more Western Slope youngsters take to growing sportA love for lacrosse

Players battle for the ball during a U9 lacrosse game between Grand Valley and a squad from Aspen at the Quick Stix Lacrosse tournament held Sunday at Canyon View Park..


Players battle for the ball during a U9 lacrosse game between Grand Valley and a squad from Aspen at the Quick Stix Lacrosse tournament held Sunday at Canyon View Park..

Nine-year-old Santiago Renteria really likes lacrosse.

He uses his mini lacrosse stick, finds a wall and plays catch with himself in his spare time. Postgame, while his friends enjoy Dippin’ Dots, he carries his ice cream in one hand, his lacrosse stick in the other.

So against Aspen on Sunday, a long-established youth lacrosse program, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Renteria notched an impressive goal in a 5-1 loss to Aspen in a U9 game at the Quick Stix Lacrosse tournament.

“We’ve brought a lot of kids up because we can’t completely support a U9 team,” coach Jason Lynch said. “So we’ve had some 7-year-olds playing up at U10. It’s good to see younger kids playing in these programs because the learning curve with lacrosse is long and steep, and the extra years these kids play at an upper level helps them. It takes a couple years to get the hang of lacrosse, and if these kids stick with it, they’ll be fun to watch when they hit high school.”

Renteria weaved around Aspen defenders during a long run from the center circle for the midfielder.

He collided with an Aspen defender near the crease, right as he was about to shoot, but the momentum from his fall caused the ball to skip past the goalie.

Renteria is part of a growing group of kids trading in baseball and track for lacrosse, Randy Brown, tournament director and head of Grand Valley Lacrosse, said.

“We’re getting more and more numbers,” Brown said. “We have about 160 kids U9 through U15. We’ve brought in teams from all over western Colorado.”

The size of the Quick Stix tournament has more than doubled in recent years, reaching around 60 teams for 2013. While participation and the quality of high school programs on the Western Slope have ballooned — Fruita Monument and Grand Junction high schools boast a combined 150 players — the quality of middle school players was on display at the Quick Stix tournament.

The combined U14 and U15 Grand Valley squad won a championship match against Durango 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

Down 2-1 at half, Grand Valley went on a 3-0 run in the second half, thanks largely to six man-up situations.

Many players on the U15 squad will be playing on Fruita Monument and Grand Junction high school teams next year.

Brown said he hopes that, in future years, the tournament can draw teams from New Mexico and Wyoming, and that it can expand to become the premier Western Slope youth tournament.

“We’ve reached out to all the New Mexico websites, and we’re trying to get teams from Wyoming by talking to them,” Brown said. “I think the best example of our growth is from Western Slope teams. Durango brought one team last year, and this year they’ve brought three. Montrose brought two teams, and they used to be part of a Telluride and Montrose combined team. We’re seeing growth on all fronts, and it will be great to see how it expands in the future.”

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