ENGLEWOOD – Dillon Pless found the back of the net 40 seconds into the overtime period to lift Mountain Vista over Valor Christian, 10-9, in the Class 5A boys lacrosse state championship.
It was the first state title game appearance in the Mountain Vista program's history, and the Golden Eagles capitalized on it to win their first state championship.
Pless led the charge on offense for the Golden Eagles, netting three goals, but the teams fought for 48 minutes, as neither team had a lead larger than three. The score was even at nine after Gunnar Fellows struck for his third game and brought Valor Christian to even.
As the whistle sounded, Valor took possession but a turnover gave Mountain Vista a chance to seal it. Taking the ball in from the left side, Pless shot on the near post and connected to send Vista home victorious.
“We have been here all tournament, so this was nothing new to us,” Pless said. “I knew I had the matchup, so I just took him to the net and was able to finish. I cannot describe the feeling when I saw it go in, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so happy I could come through for my teammates.”
The Golden Eagles have been in similar situations before. Mountain Vista posted three overtime winners just to get reach the championship game.
“This is huge for us as a program,” Mountain Vista head coach Matthew Plitnick said. “We have eight seniors that we are losing, but all eight played an incredible role for our team, it is going to be tough to see them go. We have some great freshman coming in and our sophomore class is the best in the state, so we are in pretty good shape going forward.”
Plitnick said the key to the winner was staying calm.
“We knew if we got it around to the back side, we would have a great look and he just buried it, I couldn’t be prouder,” Plitnick said.
Both teams were scoreless in the first quarter because of the terrific goalie play on both sides. Valor Christian keeper Mitch Gutsgall made save after save in goal for the Eagles and Nate Kopec kept pace, standing as a brick wall in net for Vista.
“We have 22 guys on this team that can all play great lacrosse and my teammates mean everything to me,” Kopec said. “It was a battle all game and my defense and I stepped up when we needed to, but this was a team effort.”
Not lost in the game was the effort put forth by both Griffin Mallory and Jake Likes, along with Gunnar Fellows, these three scored eight of the VCHS goals.
Valor Christian played in its first championship game at the 5A classification. The Eagles have a pair of Class 4A state championships already.