Huskies boys stepped up lacrosse game

Progress over past two years has been impressive

Alex K.W. Schultz
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 5/18/23

This year’s Douglas County High School boys lacrosse team recorded the program’s best season in 14 years.

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Huskies boys stepped up lacrosse game

Progress over past two years has been impressive

This year’s Douglas County High School boys lacrosse team recorded the program’s best season in 14 years.
The Huskies’ goalie denied 71% of the shots slung at him — the best save percentage in Colorado and the 32nd-best mark in America.
Their team captain and faceoff specialist won two out of every three faceoffs he vied for — good enough for 18th-best in the state and eighth-best among Class 5A players.
Not bad numbers — not bad at all for a program that almost didn’t have a season two years ago.
In late December 2021, a mere 11 weeks before their first game of the 2022 season, the Huskies were without a coach and had just 14 players on the roster.

Fateful phone call

The previous coach had left, and finding his replacement had proved more difficult than anticipated.
One day over the school’s winter break, then-Douglas County athletic director Jeff Gardella picked up the phone and made a call to Chad Cavey, who didn’t have any lacrosse playing experience on his resume but had spent the last 15 years coaching the game at various levels.
“[Gardella] called me and said, `We don’t have a coach. Are you willing to step up?’” recalled Cavey, who played baseball at Mullen and football at Colorado College. “I grew up coming [to Castle Rock] to play on youth teams and in high school. The thought of Douglas County not having a program was a really hard pill to swallow. I wasn’t about to let that happen.”
And so, Cavey got to work.
He still didn’t know if he’d be the full-time coach by the time Doulgas County’s season opener on March 20 rolled around, but he proceeded as if he would be. He organized a winter league and had the bare-bones team practice once a week and participate in a scrimmage once a week.
“I was kind of guessing I’d be the full-time coach. I mean, it was a couple months before the season started and they still didn’t have a head coach,” Cavey said. “I started coaching right away so they’d be prepared, whether I was going to be the coach or not.”
Cavey did eventually become the head man, leading the 2022 Huskies to a 6-9 record overall and a 3-4 mark in 5A League #1 play — not bad at all given the preseason circumstances.
“It was pretty rough,” Huskies goalie Carter Holvick said of the months leading up to the 2022 season and, really, the previous couple seasons. “Nobody really took our team seriously. We weren’t very competitive or anything. We just came to practice. There was no end goal, really.”
That all changed when Cavey arrived.
The 56-year-old coach brought in some new lieutenants to assist him, including 24-year-old Elijah Chapa, who played lacrosse at Colorado Mesa University, and Frank Eich, who captained Army’s lacrosse team in the 1970s (Eich was featured in a 1972 New York Times article for his three-goal performance in Army’s 10-9 upset win over previously undefeated Maryland).
Chapa and Eich brought a kind of discipline and structure and toughness that had been missing from the program.
The new coaches taught and pushed, and the young players listened and bought in.
“These kids are amazing. They’re sponges,” Cavey said. “One of the things I’ve learned over all the years I’ve coached is to push these guys to the limit, because it’s amazing how far they can go.”
How far the 2023 Huskies went was quite remarkable in light of the program’s recent history. They won seven of their first nine games. That nine-game stretch included a season-opening 18-2 dismantling of Palmer and a come-from-behind 12-10 win over Boulder, a team that humbled Douglas County 16-1 the year before.

Thumb woes pay off

The strong start didn’t come without some adversity, though.
In early April, Holvick, who scored six goals in the Huskies’ first two games, broke his thumb in an off-field incident.
“I couldn’t play because I couldn’t close the glove,” Holvick said. “I thought my season was over.”
And then?
“I was in bed one night and I thought, `I’ll go play goalie. I don’t need my thumb for goalie.’”
Wait, goalie? For someone who had been an attackman his whole lacrosse life? Goalie for someone who had never practiced at the position — not even once?
Yep. And Holvick was a natural.
In his first game in the cage, against Smoky Hill on April 19, Holvick pitched a shutout, recording seven saves in a 12-0 win over the Buffaloes. That effort landed him player-of-the-game honors.
Five days later, against Denver North, Holvick tallied seven more saves and allowed just one Vikings shot to sneak past him. The Huskies won 16-1.
Holvick’s 92 total saves were a big reason why Douglas County went on to have an 8-5 season (5-3 in league play) — the program’s first winning season since 2009.
“I honestly have no idea,” Holvick said when asked how he was able to pull off the attack-to-goalie transition so seamlessly. “Three weeks or so (after the injury), I probably could have gone back to attack because I had enough movement in my thumb. But I was just doing so good; there was no reason to go back.”
Ensuring that his newly minted goalie was pressured as little as possible was Ben Hasselback, who won 66% (146 of 220) of his faceoff attempts to keep the ball away from opponents and set up Douglas County’s scoring opportunities.
His biggest game came against Prairie View on April 14, when he won 87% (13 of 15) of the game’s faceoffs, allowing Douglas County’s shooters to tee off in a 13-0 win.
“I just try to think about each one on its own,” Hasselback said of how he approaches faceoffs mentally. “If I lost the last one, I just try to erase it from my memory and focus fresh.”
And now, Holvick and Hasselback will move on. Both seniors this year, Holvick will attend Colorado State in the fall while Hasselback is set to attend the University of Tennessee. Both said they may play club lacrosse at their respective universities.
Meanwhile, the Douglas County program will play on, just as the Huskies did when Holvick was injured, just as they did when they were without a coach, just as they did when no one seemed to take the program seriously.
And, yes, Cavey will be back on the sideline in 2024. With a solid foundation laid and a coach who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, who knows how far next year’s Huskies can go?
One thing is for certain: Holvick, Hasselback and their fellow seniors are leaving the program in a better place than they found it.
“For all of us, but mainly the seniors,” Hasselback said, “being able to be part of turning the program around meant a lot to us.”
Chad Cavey, Douglas County High School, Huskies, lacrosse, Colorado


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