Erie lacrosse coach Nick Mandia laughs and quickly finds the positive about his team’s prospect of playing four games in five days in next week’s close to the regular season.
“If you’re going to win a state championship, you have to win two big-time games in three days,” he said by phone Friday. “It serves as good practice.”
The program, which has yet to face the hardship of a down year since its first varsity season in 2019, is again all smiles as one of the leading Class 4A state contenders.
With a combined record of 31-8 in two-plus seasons, the Tigers reached the quarterfinals and semis in their first two seasons. And in Season 3, they’re ranked third in the latest 4A CHSAANow.com coaches poll, with a roster built to make another deep postseason run.
Asked about the team’s makeup, Mandia pointed to his group’s experience. Namely from its 14 seniors, many of whom will play next year in college.
“There’s a little more experience on this roster compared to others,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a young team. We’re somewhere in the middle of the road I’d say.”
But that maturation also comes from the growth of its two star sophomores — Charlie O’Brien and Liam Connors. O’Brien currently leads the team in goals with 34. Connors is first in points with 51.
Perhaps they will be key in pushing the program further than ever before this May.
“They became more assertive this year … so I’m enjoying seeing that,” said Mandia, who also coaches the pair in club lacrosse with the nationally ranked Denver Elite 2024s. “I think they’re very complementary players. They obviously play well together. But they also make everyone around them better and make our offensive unit better.”
The Tigers host 4A No. 1 Denver South Monday, then get No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain Friday in a game that could decide the 4A Northern League title. In between, they host Holy Family Tuesday and visit No. 10 Evergreen Wednesday.
Another lacrosse contender …
The Fairview girls’ team.
Will this be the year the Knights break through for their first program title? Looks promising of late.
Currently ranked fourth in 5A, they beat No. 3 Cherry Creek Thursday for their 11th straight victory of the season. Nine of those wins have been by double digits, and after two more games to close the regular season, they should be among the top seeds in the 16-team state bracket.
“I think that the biggest thing is we have a lot of talent and we’re healthy,” Fairview coach Kelsey Sheridan said. “Last year, we lost some people due to injuries and we’re in a really good place right now, so we just want to keep building off our momentum.”
Fairview, with four known Division-I players on roster (Cami Johnson, UC Davis; Mia Welty, UC Davis; Allie Hartman, Michigan; and Ava Welty, Denver) is hoping to become the sixth girls’ program in the state to win a lacrosse title.
Since the sport’s introduction to CHSAA in 1998, Cherry Creek has won 10 titles, Colorado Academy seven, and Air Academy and Kent Denver three. Evergreen won the inaugural 4A title last season.
Jefferson Academy’s Evan Shanks is having a stellar senior campaign, leading the BoCoPreps.com area in points with 66, which is tied for fourth in the state. He is eighth in the state in goals (44).
Boulder’s Max Burhop leads the area in goals (46), fifth best in the state, and is tied for 15th in the state in points (55).
Below them is Dawson’s Leo Bellanca, who is eighth in state points (60).
In girls’ lacrosse, Dawson’s Annabelle Biggar and Holy Family’s Sidney Edmonds are tied for second in the state in goals (69). Biggar, meanwhile, is fifth in points (80), and Edmonds is seventh (77).
Elsewhere, Fairview’s Cami Johnson is tied for 15th in state points (58) and freshman teammate Lucy Connors is tied for 16th in assists (19).
Friday, Monarch senior Sam Riecken ran up from his defensive spot and scored the equalizer in the Coyotes’ eventual 10-6 win over Fairview. Riecken has three goals from the defensive spot this season and is committed to Yale for lacrosse.
Erie midfielder Corby Tecu, a Mead student, meanwhile, scored two goals in a 13-1 win over Fruita Monument Monday. The senior is four points shy of 100 in his high school career. He is committed to Drexel for lacrosse.