Spirited LCC girls fall to Scripps Ranch in CIF lacrosse semi-finals
The La Costa Canyon girls lacrosse team won five of its final six regular season games to earn a spot in the CIF Open Division bracket and then beat second-seeded and heavily-favored Torrey Pines in an 11-10 first round thriller on Thursday, May 12.
The desire and effort were there again Tuesday night, May 17, but just weren’t enough to extend the magical run as two-time defending champion and third-seeded host Scripps Ranch out-muscled the Mavericks, 9-5, in the CIF semi-finals.
“Coming off that amazing win against Torrey Pines, I knew this was going to be a very tough challenge,” said Head Coach Casey Belitz, who was coaching the final game of a storied 11-year stint at the school that included four section titles. “We were so focused on that first one and it was so emotional, that getting back up for a game like this, against a talented team with the big game experience like Scripps Ranch, was a tall order.”
That said, the Mavericks came out with plenty of fire and started with more purpose and aggressiveness than they displayed in the first half against Torrey Pines, likely a reflection of the growth that performance engendered.
The LCC defense turned away the Falcons’ first offensive foray and a forceful breakout sprint by junior Selena Tsai led to a goal by sophomore Piper Mackley just 46 seconds into the contest. A minute and a half later, Scripps senior Amanda Grissom responded with a goal of her own and the teams exchanged another pair of goals, Hudson Ebbers for LCC and Dahlen Vilbrandt for the home team, making the count 2-2 with 16:51 remaining in the first half.
LCC continued to create chances on the offensive end but Vilbrandt’s tally kick-started a Falcon surge that increased the margin to 5-2 by intermission and ultimately resulted in seven unanswered markers. essentially putting the result out of reach at 9-2 with just under four minutes left. Grissom (two goals) and Vilbrandt (4) inflicted much of the damage and their presence, along with the Mavericks’ inability to convert around the cage, were the night’s predominant themes.
“Eight and nine (Grissom and Vilbrandt) were just a handful and we didn’t shut them down like we needed to if we wanted to win this game,” said Belitz. “On top of that, their goalie was insane. The looks were on, we had so many opportunities, we just couldn’t finish.”
The final segment of the game may have said as much about the ’22 La Costa Canyon squad as anything else over the course of the 50 minutes. Trailing by six, Belitz called a timeout with just over seven minutes on the clock.
No doubt effected at least somewhat by the finality of the moment as well as the circuitous path navigated by this team getting to this spot, Belitz implored her players not to waste this irreplaceable occasion to close out the game on their terms.
“I’m so proud of these girls and what they’ve accomplished but just felt like we had so much more to give, had more tools and just didn’t have a chance to utilize them tonight,” said Belitz. “Those first 10 games of the season were pretty tough and took a lot of patience—when we were 0-5, a lot of people doubted us and others were saying ‘LCC’s not what it used to be.’”
“But they worked so hard, eventually turned a corner and look where they ended up—in the CIF semi-finals. That timeout was me telling them you have seven minutes, if you’re a senior you may not step on a field again, some may never be on a team like this again, so be proud of it. Winning and losing was not the focus at that point. I wanted them to feel good about it and take it into next season.”
To their credit, the Mavericks took Belitz’s passionate huddle to heart, racking up three goals in the final three minutes, not only generating a more respectable final ledger, but making a statement about the foundation of their program. Fittingly, senior Sloane Benshoof notched the first one from a top of the circle re-start and sophomore sparkplug Presley Mitchell accounted for the last two in a 45-second span.
For Belshoof, the late goal was impactful. “It felt nice to have one in there, knowing I contributed to the game, particularly since I did miss a few shots earlier,” she said. “Ending the season and my career on that good note, personally and as a team, felt great.” Also impactful was the relationship she forged with the retiring Belitz.
“I was so sad when she told us she was stepping down,” continued Belshoof. “She’s such an inspirational, determined and caring coach—we’re so lucky to have had her.
“I was really motivated to play for her this last week and wanted to help make her season memorable. I hope we fulfilled that with the win over Torrey. I hope we made her proud.”
The Mavericks conclude the season 8-9 overall while Scripps Ranch improved to 17-3 and faces top-seeded La Jolla in Saturday’s CIF championship match. They will be looking to match La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines which both own three Open Division banners.
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