Demons’ lacrosse dives into uncharted waters

David Bergeland/Durango Herald file photo

Fortunately for Durango High School, Jessie Ransford’s nagging hip injury appears to be doing well, so the Demons’ leading scorer could be as healthy as she’s been in weeks when the Ralston Valley Mustangs come calling in Durango’s first-ever playoff game.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

Ready or not, here come the playoffs.

The Durango High School girls lacrosse team, seeded 13th, barely will have had time to let the accomplishment of its first Mountain League title set in before taking the field for its first-ever playoff game at 4 p.m. today against No. 20 Ralston Valley at DHS Stadium.

DHS head coach Jenni Darlow said a playoff victory its first time in the 20-team field would be a fitting sendoff for a corps of seniors that helped build this program from scratch four years ago.

“It’d be huge because the seniors have put so much into this team, and I think it would be so rewarding for them to leave that kind of legacy,” she said.

The Mustangs (8-7) present the first test from the Front Range the Demons have faced all season, and the caliber of competition Ralston Valley regularly faces appears to cause a bunch of high-scoring games. Jenny Adams leads the Mustangs with 51 goals, and Sara McMahon scored 36 times this season.

Ralston Valley has scored 175 times and conceded 196 goals, and Darlow said she’s not sure whether those numbers are based more on the style of lacrosse played in the Front Range or 100 percent indicative of the team DHS will see today.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t have enough experience with Front Range lacrosse to know if the offense is that good or defenses aren’t super strong.”

Durango knows one thing: Its defense is plenty strong.

Behind a new defensive scheme borrowed from Fort Lewis College and the play of goalkeeper and FLC recruit Alyssa Spencer, DHS conceded just 49 times all year, including just 10 last weekend to a solid Grand Junction team, and is fourth in the state in goals-against average.

Offensively, Darlow’s looking for a pick-me-up from a team that scored 105 times this season, led by Jessie Ransford’s 38 and Siena Gumbiner’s 21.

“We found a way to get it done,” Darlow said. “We scored as many goals as we needed to and not a lot more.

“What I told the team (Monday) is that our offense needs to step it up because that’s where we’re lacking, and we’ve got to be able to match.”

In terms of nerves, perhaps not having a lot of time to dwell on the task at hand is a positive. In terms of health, however, DHS could’ve used a few extra days.

Defender Liz Lozano’s lateral collateral ligament injury suffered last week against Grand Junction appears as though it’ll keep her out for a second consecutive game, Darlow said. Becca Rossi’s banged-up knee, which she played with last weekend, likely could’ve used more rest as well.

Fortunately for DHS, Ransford’s nagging hip injury appears to be doing well, so Durango’s leading scorer could be as healthy as she’s been in weeks.

Every bit should help as Durango looks to provide a boost to a conference that’s had little in the way of postseason success. Nothing cures a plodding reputation like postseason victories.

“It’d be huge for our whole league,” Darlow said. “Not all of our games are the friendliest of affairs, but we’re all in the same boat.

“If we can win, then we’re proving we belong.”

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