• Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Erie lacrosse freshman attackmen Liam Connors, left, and Charlie O'Brien pose for a portrait on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Erie, Colo.

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Erie lacrosse senior long stick midfielder Hayden Sock (21) runs through passing drills during a team practice on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Erie, Colo.

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Erie lacrosse freshman attackman Liam Connors (22) shooting drills during a team practice on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Erie, Colo.

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Erie lacrosse junior defenseman Carter Moak (14) runs through passing drills on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Erie, Colo.

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Erie lacrosse head coach Nick Mandia draws up plays during a team practice on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Erie, Colo.



The 2021 boys lacrosse season has barely begun, and excitement already runs sky-high among the Erie athletes.

Erie, which houses the all-district team for the St. Vrain Valley School District and hosts every school but Lyons, entered the preseason with high regards from the state’s coaches. In the preseason coaches poll, the Tigers were designated as the No. 3 team in Class 4A, just behind No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain and No. 2 Golden.

Newcomer Liam Connors believes those rankings are already outdated and may soon change.

“I think we’re state championship contenders with how we’ve been playing at practice and how we’ve been playing together,” the freshman attacker said.

The Tigers began their spring schedule thrown straight into the fire, as they faced off with Cheyenne Mountain for their first game on Thursday afternoon. They lost in a double-overtime battle, 11-10.

Their next few contests won’t be any easier. They have to stay red-hot if they want to succeed against No. 4 Air Academy, No. 10 Windsor and No. 5 Thompson Valley. And that’s just in the next two weeks.

The Tigers boast an ultra-talented squad this year, one that will certainly strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. Every single player on the roster plays year-round club lacrosse, many of whom travel all over the country to face a litany of different teams from different regions.

Head coach Nick Mandia believes the diversity of schools represented in the team will pose a bit of a hurdle early on, but will ultimately prove to be one of Erie’s strengths.

“That’s certainly one of the ingredients, is that fact that we have the challenge of developing a cohesive culture between multiple high schools,” Mandia said. “A lot of these kids compete against each other in other sports throughout the year, but then they have to come together and figure out how to be elite together, which is really fun. It’s a fun challenge. But then we also have some of the best players in the state in their respective divisions and classes.”

The Tigers welcome a powerful freshman class with attackers Charlie O’Brien and Connors and goalie Jase Curley. O’Brien and Connors enter the program having played club ball with Mandia’s Denver Elite for a number of years. The two bring a level of trust and chemistry together that’s not often seen among high school freshmen.

O’Brien, for his part, believes Mandia has put together the perfect culture to breed success.

“He’s very interactive with his players and he’s younger, so he’s able to communicate better and understand us more,” O’Brien said. “He’s got a bunch of great players from a bunch of club teams. We’ve all been able to get to know each other pretty well.”

The returners, of course, are nothing to scoff at either.

Erie’s lacrosse program came into existence just two years ago, meaning the Tigers have only had one season as a new team under their belts. They bring back 22 juniors and seniors on a roster of 30.

“It seems like we have a lot of talent throughout every class,” senior long-stick midfielder Hayden Sock said. “It seemed like the first year, we had a lot of talent, senior-wise. We had a good amount of seniors too, but it seems like this year, we have some good freshmen, good juniors, good sophomores, good seniors all around. That’s the main thing that stands out.”

Mandia believes Sock is one of the best LSMs in Colorado, a notion Sock himself has bolstered with his commitment to York College next year, which is a top-five Division III lacrosse program. The Tigers also boast a beast in the goal with sophomore Colin Selters.

Only time can tell how this season shakes out for Erie boys lacrosse, but for now, the Tigers are riding high on their expectations.

“We’re really excited,” Mandia said. “These kids have been working all year — fall ball, winter ball, in the weight room. We’ve been doing Webex calls with film and chalk talk. We’re bought in. These kids have spent the time that they’re supposed to spend. It’s a weird excitement this year just because last year was lost, so it’s hard to track where the other programs are and how we’re going to compete, where we stand exactly. We feel good about ourselves but at the end of the day, we have to measure ourselves against others that we’re unaware of right now.”