Showdown in D-Town

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Apr 242008
 
Authors: Sean Star

The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Showdown, an annual instate rivalry between the club teams of CSU and CU-Boulder, continues to grow five years after its inception.

With the addition of the women’s game this year, the lacrosse version of the popular football matchup is quickly becoming a signature sporting event at CSU.

The women’s game, pitting No. 2 CSU against No. 3 CU, starts at 5 p.m. Saturday and will be the first-ever women’s collegiate lacrosse game at Invesco Field. The men will follow at 7 p.m., meeting for the third straight year at Invesco.

Having the chance to play in a 76,000-seat stadium built for the likes of Champ Bailey has the women’s team psyched.

“We’re really excited,” CSU senior attacker Andee Barocas said. “It shows how far Colorado lacrosse has come. It’s pretty exciting for us.”

The progress of the sport Barocas speaks of correlates with the start of the showdown five years ago when members of the then-newly founded CSU Lacrosse Alumni Association were looking for ways to stay in touch.

“I just wrapped up my time as an assistant coach and was reminiscing about old playing days,” said Matt Smith, vice president of the alumni association. “We wanted a way to include the alumni and to showcase the game.”

Thus, the showdown was born in 2004, adding to the rapid growth of lacrosse in the region in the past seven years. Two years prior, in 2002, the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League had migrated to Denver; and two years thereafter, in 2006, the Denver Outlaws of Major League Lacrosse were created.

The first two showdowns were played at Shea Stadium, a high school stadium in Highlands Ranch, but after drawing around 3,000 fans the second year, the game quickly outgrew the alumni association’s expectations and the stadium’s capacity.

Enter the Outlaws, a new professional outdoor lacrosse team, that at the time, was looking to spread its reach in the region. The Outlaws offered to sponsor the game and move it to Invesco, home of not only the Denver Broncos, but the Outlaws too.

“We were kind of the small thing and they were the big thing,” Smith said. “. I’m not sure we even thought it was possible.”

Moving the game to Invesco was not only possible, but it turned out to be highly successful. The initial showdown at the new Mile High in 2006 drew 4,500 fans, and since the Outlaws were an outdoor team – unlike the Rams’ former sponsor, the indoor Colorado Mammoth – a perfect relationship was born.

Last year’s showdown drew 5,700, and as many as 6,500 are expected Saturday, when live bands and booze will create an atmosphere only found at a true rivalry.

The game has gotten so big, it has its own Web site, www.lacrosseshowdown.com. And to accommodate students this year, CSU is offering transportation to and from the game for a small price that includes admission and a bottle of water.

Though state bragging rights will be on all the players’ minds, the winner of the men’s game gains crucial playoff position also.

A victory Saturday by either team will clinch the third seed in next month’s Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Association playoffs in Utah. The third seed would then play second-place Utah, a much more favorable matchup than one against first-place BYU, ranked No. 3 in the country.

And though the Rams have never lost to the Buffs in the four previous showdowns, or any regular season game, for that matter, No. 7 CSU is plenty wary of No. 17 CU.

“They had our number in fall ball,” Rams goalie Garrett Fitzpatrick said, referring to when CU beat CSU an exhibition game in the fall. “. There’s no reasonable talent difference.”

Both teams are coming off losses to No. 1 Michigan, though the Rams came a lot closer to upsetting the Wolverines, losing 10-9 in double-overtime on April 12. CU got shutout by Michigan, 8-0, on April 10.

On the women’s side, seeding for the national championship is already set. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to play for, as the winner will gain momentum heading into the next month’s national championship, which concludes with the championship game at Invesco on May 10.

“It means a lot,” Borocas said. “I can’t remember the last time we lost to CU . we better beat them.”

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