Keyed by a 10-goal run Coach Casey Belitz’s third-seeded La Costa Canyon girls lacrosse team eliminated defending champion and arch rival Torrey Pines, 20-13, in Friday night’s CIF Open Division Quarterfinal clash. The 14-6 Mavericks now travel south Wednesday night to take on second-seeded La Jolla, a team that defeated LCC, 15-14, on April 25. Sixth-seeded Torrey Pines concludes its 2019 campaign, 6-9.
When the two Avocado West League adversaries squared off in the regular season, Torrey Pines came in having beaten the Mavericks seven of the last eight times the two had met. That night LCC raced out to a commanding lead but had to hold on for dear life before emerging with a 10-9 decision. This time, once Mavs got their game going, they put the pedal to the floor and never took it off.
The visiting Falcons got off to an encouraging start, literally scoring seven seconds into the contest with junior Mia Kohn grabbing the draw, splitting the LCC defense and dishing to Lucy Reed for the game’s first tally.
And that’s the kind of tempo the two teams played in the early going. When Torrey freshman Reese Loeskey took a feed from Liz Trask and scored the second of her four goals just 11:20 into the contest, it put her team up, 6-4.
From that point on it was pretty much all Mavs as the home club ripped off eight goals, three apiece by senior Sara McLean and junior Hannah Etheridge, taking them into intermission with 12 goals (two more than they scored the entire 50 minutes of the two teams’ first meeting).
For Belitz, who’s guided the Mavericks to four CIF titles (the last in 2015), the strategy was straightforward. “We knew we needed to win draws, we knew we needed to push it and fast break,” she said. “Our girls came out with a lot of energy and that gave us some momentum.
“We just said ‘go’ until somebody stops you and we weren’t being stopped.” LCC came out smoking in the second half as Etheridge connected twice in the first three minutes, meaning the Mavs had scored 10 consecutive goals and at 14-6 the outcome was all but decided.
The Falcons tried to mount a rally and twice cut the gap to six but couldn’t get any nearer. Even when trailing in the first half, McLean, whose five goals shared game high honors with Etheridge, was never overly concerned.
“We just had a lot of confidence and knew we could get it done,” said McLean, who now has 61 goals on the season. “The draws were a giant factor. It’s something we’ve struggled with at times during the year but after they got up, we started winning the draws and when we win draws, we usually score.”
The Mavericks big two, McLean and Etheridge, produced as expected but Belitz got eight goals from the trio of Ari McLean (2), Sara’s sophomore sister, senior Lexie Likins (3) and junior Sierra Lizerbram (3)—a dynamic that’s started to become the norm. The latter two have been primarily defense-oriented but Belitz expects them to be big offensive contributors when the itself and the opportunity presents itself and Friday night was one of those times.
“We’ve been working on developing our depth and we need our midfielders, who are defenders, like Lexie and Sierra to be an important part of our attack,” said Belitz. “As we get further into the playoffs, we know our top few scorers are going to have opponents trying to shut them down.
“They’ll put their best defenders on them, match them up and face guard them, whatever it takes. We need that group right behind them to occupy defenders and establish themselves as threats—the way they’ve been playing, they should have confidence in that role.”
You won’t find Torrey Pines’ three-time CIF Open Division championship Coach Kaitlin Doucette arguing that point. Fifteen minutes after the final horn, she talked like she’d been run over by a semi-truck.
“They came with a ton of energy and we just couldn’t overcome it,” said Doucette. “The pace was faster tonight than last time, we were winning draws early but then it seemed we couldn’t win one.
“They were getting after it and we just couldn’t stop the bleeding, whether it was a draw, getting a defensive stop or simply getting a break to go our way. There were a couple of unlucky bounces here and there, we hit some pipes, but in the end, they were just going hard and really wanted it. It all combined for a long night.”
McLean is looking forward to a few more of those—two to be exact. “We’ve got to keep working on everything, stay confident and keep our energy up,” said McLean when asked about the semi-finals and, hopefully, a trip to the CIF finals, which would be LCC’s seventh in eight years. “We’re going to go out there and give it everything we have because we’re at that time of the year where if you’re done, you’re really done.”