Grand Valley Lacrosse shows its stuff, despite loss in first game

The Lightning’s Jeff Cunningham, 22, fires a shot on goal Friday during the second quarter. Cunningham had four goals in the loss.

The Grand Valley lacrosse team experienced almost every situation Friday during its first game against Aspen.

The emotions ranged from being down early to leading big, fighting off a comeback, battling back and dealing with a loss as the Skiers won 13-12 at Walker Field at Mesa State College.

“It shows that these two teams are fairly even,” Lightning coach Dave Zabronsky said. “I thought we would have a tough time with Aspen as they are more game experienced and it showed today.”

In the first Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned game for the Lightning, it put on a show for the home crowd. After falling behind 1-0 on a Nicky Ufkes goal, the Lightning rattled off seven straight goals over the next quarter and a half to take a 7-1 lead at 7:33 left with the second quarter.

Attacker Jeff Cunningham and midfielder Taylor Watkins led the way in the scoring spree combining for five of the seven goals. Watkins added the final goal of the quarter at 4:20 to put the Lightning up 8-3 at halftime.

“We got up on them early and couldn’t hold the lead,” Zabronsky said. “I think we got overconfident and got away from our game.”

In the third quarter, Aspen chipped away at the Lightning lead. The Skiers eventually re-took the lead at 3:37 on a Bo Writer goal, which gave the Skiers a 9-8 advantage. Aspen coach Mike Goerne said the Skiers were determined to put up a fight after halftime.

“Grand Valley capitalized early in the game, but our guys fought back,” Goerne said. “We talked about stepping up the intensity and winning ground balls. They went out and executed.”

Showing its fight, Grand Valley bounced back, regaining the lead in the final two minutes with Cunningham and Watkins both scoring to give the Lightning a 10-9 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Both defenses held strong early in the final quarter, but costly penalties allowed the Skiers to score two goals in roughly 15 seconds and take a 11-10 lead. Both teams battled back and forth down the stretch, combining for four goals were scored in the final two minutes. The Lightning’s Willie Stevens tied the game at 12-12 with 1:20 left, but Joey Acklen answered 20 seconds later to give the Skiers the victory.

“It was a tough loss,” Lightning defenseman AJ Meil said. “We tried our hardest, but ground balls and penalties killed us.”

Although the loss was tough, the Lightning showcased the latest sport to enter the Grand Valley high school sports scene. Players like Watkins and Cunningham showed off their offensive skills, each scoring four goals. Meil displayed a more aggressive side to the sport, laying punishing hits on the Skiers’ offensive players.

“I am a football player, so I love to hit,” Meil said. “And for our first game, I thought everyone played well.”

Grand Valley attempts to bounce back from its first loss of the season today when it travels to take on Glenwood Springs at 11 a.m.


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