Playoff defeat completes collapse

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By Michael Hicks

Jon Cohen couldn’t have been more proud of the Evergreen Cougars’ boys lacrosse team. For a team he thought was looking at a .500 season at best to step up and win 10 consecutive games in 2012 and 11 overall was overachieving at its best.
And yet there was some mild suprise when the Cougars, who won 11 of their first 12 games, stumbled all the way to a No. 23 seed in this year’s 24-team postseason tournament. Three straight losses and a third-place finish in the Foothills Conference will do that.
That drew Evergreen a May 3 playoff-opening date at 10th-seeded Fort Collins Unified, which in turn became a 14-2 season-ending defeat at French Field. Having to travel for the first round and being the next-to-last team into the field was a tough draw, but it was one that Cohen said Evergreen dealt itself.
“I was (surprised by the seeding), but we made our bed in a sense,” Cohen said. “Columbine, Wheat Ridge before the season, during the season and after the game nobody was shocked about those. But that last game with St. Mary’s, losing that game all the talk was about how Evergreen finished the season. That’s exactly what happened. We kind of had to deal with it.”
Then things only got worse against Fort Collins Unified after the host team went ahead 8-1 in the game’s opening 12 minutes. Digging out of such an imposing hole proved to be too difficult. Reilly Fletcher and Neil Olson scored Evergreen’s goals.
And those Fort Collins Unified had five players with multiple goals, led by a hat trick each from Jackson Burke and Alexander Stewart, Evergreen has its reasons to hold its head up high. The Cougars, who finished with an 11-4 record, qualified for the 24-team postseason for a second consecutive season. That’s saying a lot considering Evergreen had never made the playoffs until 2011 and graduated 14 seniors from last year’s squad.
“To win the first 10 games of the season is impressive,” said Cohen, who had 17 seniors on this year’s roster. “It wasn’t necessarily the leadership that we had last year. It was more lead by example rather than by voice. All of the seniors set up examples for the younger kids. Rather than talking to them about it they would just go do it.”
Cohen sees a younger team on the horizon in 2013. Those freshmen and sophomores will be relied upon to grow up fast. “There will be the mental mistakes you don’t get from seniors, but the young guys will have to step up,” Cohen said.