GJ boys lacrosse team stumbles in season opener

Grand Junction’s Kirk Fletcher, 21, scoops up the ball Tuesday night as teammate Riley Davis McDougal keeps Aspen’s Dante Lizotte, 25, at bay in the Skiers’ 18-4 victory at Walker Field.

Once Aspen started moving the ball in a wide arc Tuesday, using its entire attacking end, the Grand Junction boys lacrosse team looked like a rocked boxer trying to recover from a nasty right hook.

The punch-drunk stupor faded quickly, but the Tigers fell 18-4 in a nonleague game at Walker Field.

“The team you saw today was not the team we’ve had in practice,” Grand Junction coach James States said. “I think we were a little bit awe-struck, and when you play a team like Aspen, that can happen. (Aspen) played well and moved the ball incredibly well. We haven’t seen that good of ball movement in a while.”

States said the Tigers were playing with “first-game jitters,” stemming from the loss of 13 seniors and nearly the entire starting lineup from last season.

The Skiers scored five goals in the first three minutes, taking exactly five shots on net. The run was capped with an exceptional pass over the back of the goal by a long-stick midfielder to a leaping Jonathan Wells, who flicked a midair finish into the top-right corner and then side-stepped the crease.

Although there was little Grand Junction junior goalie Jacob Hart could do to slow the Aspen offense, and freshman Jax Gardner didn’t fare much better in relief, States said he saw flashes of potential from his goalies.

“(Jax) is incredible as a freshman,” States said. “I can’t wait to see him when he gets older.

“We have a great group of freshmen that we’re really excited about and a great of group of sophomores that are going to get better as they play more games,” States said. “I have a senior, Nic Gookin, he’s our head team captain, and he’s done a great job of leading these young guys.”

Gookin, Charlie Ruckman, Tanner Mast and Stephen Foster scored unassisted goals for the Tigers. Aspen was led by Taylor Tick with six goals.

“When our offense settled down, when they calmed down, they moved the ball pretty well,” States said. “They seemed to have the tendency to push the ball a little bit when they have three or four goals right off the bat. They tried to push it without understanding that those goals come with ball movement. When they settled down and got that, I was happy with what I saw.”


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