ARVADA — Ralston Valley’s boys lacrosse program went into uncharted territory this spring.
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In its seventh season, the Mustangs played in their first playoff game May 11 at the North Area Athletic Complex. Ralston Valley also picked up its first postseason win with a 17-5 victory over No. 24-seeded Grand Junction.
“It’s special,” Ralston Valley coach Steve Annest said. “There are 16 seniors on this team. Many have been playing together since their freshmen year. There is a great history with these guys.”
No. 9 Ralston Valley hit the road to face No. 8 Kent Denver on May 14, at Kent Denver School in Cherry Hills Village. The Sun Devils (10-6 record) edged the Mustangs 11-9 to advance to the state quarterfinals this week.
Despite the loss it was a history making season for the Mustangs (10-7).
Senior Zach Friedman has been a staple for the program for four years. The defender and face-off specialist has is cherishing what this team has done before he heads to play lacrosse at Princeton University next school year.
“I think that was the dream,” Friedman said talking about playing a playoff game at NAAC. “A lot of these guys came in freshmen year with the mentality we were going to make something happen our senior year. We were going to make some noise around the state.”
A three-game losing streak at the end of the league season could have derailed the No. 9-seeded Mustangs. However, wins over Denver East and Legend to close out the regular season allowed Ralston Valley to have some solid momentum coming into the playoffs.
Ralston Valley completely dominated the first half against Grand Junction. Senior Nicholas Gates poured in five goals before halftime. Junior Gunner Schoepflin and sophomore Cooper Anderson also added a pair of tallies going into the break giving the Mustangs a 12-0 lead with four minutes to play in the second quarter.
“It was fantastic,” said Gates, who finished with five goals and four assist on the night. “We came out and tried to take care of business early by coming out strong.”
Grand Junction (9-7) ended the shutout with a pair of goals in the final minutes of the second quarter. Senior Santiago Renteria and sophomore Maddox Castor scored for the Tigers.
The Tigers opened the second half with a goal by Luke Neville, but it would be the last one allowed by Ralston Valley starting goalie Noah Perea. The Mustangs also put in the next three goals to get the game to a 12-goal lead and running clock for the remainder of the fourth quarter.
Annest got several underclassmen into the game in the final quarter, including back-up goalies sophomore Luke Kellogg and freshman Griffin Niedzielski.
“Coach Annest put in a no excuses mentality for us,” Gates said of the injuries that plagued the Mustangs this season. “There is no excuses. You have to show up and play. We got back on track.”
Ralston Valley will had a 3-game winning streak heading into its second-round playoff game against Kent Denver.
“Some of this group has been together since kindergarten or first-grade,” Friedman said of the senior class. “Every extra game we get. Every extra practice we get means so much to every one of us.”
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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