Monday’s match-up for first place in the Metro Conference standings between the Eastlake Titans and Otay Ranch Mustangs boys lacrosse teams was emotion-packed throughout, but perhaps more so for Eastlake, which had something extra to prove on the pitch.
The Titans were playing in memory of teammate Tommy Henderson, who died five games into the season in a swimming pool accident.
Henderson was one of three senior captains on the EHS roster. His goal had been to lead his team past the arch rival Mustangs and, in the process, accomplish something he hadn’t been able to do since donning a varsity uniform: win a league title.
His teammates were certain he was watching on Monday and they made sure to put a smile on his face after pounding out an inspired 15-8 victory against three-time defending league champion Otay Ranch.
The Titans did it for Tommy.
“Definitely he was watching,” said EHS senior co-captain Devon Ballow, who registered a career-high seven goals in the game.
Eastlake improved to 7-0 in league play, 11-2 overall, following Monday’s emotional win.
The Mustangs dropped to 6-1 in league play, 7-5 overall.
Ballow received a surprise visitor on the sideline after the game. Henderson’s mother came down from the stands to personally congratulate Ballow for helping secure the victory in memory of her son.
Tears were in Theresa Henderson’s eyes as she hugged Ballow.
“I know he’s smiling,” she said in reference to her son.
“Definitely,” Ballow said.
The win was the ninth consecutive for the Titans, who started their streak with a 13-3 non-league victory against Point Loma in Henderson’s final appearance.
Eastlake hasn’t lost a game since dedicating its season to Henderson.
“We had picked up the pace against Hilltop (an 11-1 win) and Bonita Vista (a 12-5 victory) in our last two games but we figured neither of those teams were of the same caliber as Otay Ranch,” Titan coach Nestor Rosas explained. “In fact, the team asked for an extra practice.”
But they didn’t need extra motivation.
Rosas said winning Monday’s game in Henderson’s memory was an obvious goal for everyone on the field.
Henderson had been their captain, their leader, their friend.
“To beat Otay Ranch — it’s something Tommy wanted and something that all our seniors wanted,” the EHS coach said. “We put it in the back of our minds as a goal.”
“That was our motivation the whole game,” senior co-captain Casey Stanko said. “Definitely, he was here.”
Clash of the Titans
The visitors would not be denied in their quest to fulfill Henderson’s wishes. Ballow scored a minute into the game and Stanko, who had known Henderson since the first grade, made it 2-0 Eastlake in the second minute of play.
Titan point-scoring leader Ryan Hayes, who continues to honor Henderson with No. 23 taped to the back of his helmet, then made it 3-0.
EHS players ended each ensuing timeout with the same cheer: “Tommy!”
It was if the Titans were playing with an extra man throughout the game. Ask any of them and they’d likely tell you they were.
The Mustangs narrowed the score to 3-2 and 5-4 by the end of the opening quarter. But feeling pushed, Eastlake promptly reeled off four unanswered goals — two each by Ballow and Hayes — to lead 9-4 at the halftime break.
The storm was only beginning. The Titans ended their halftime huddle with a deafening roar and shot the first four goals of the second half to zoom in front 13-4.
Wherever the younger Henderson was, he was not just smiling. He had to be weeping at this point for what his teammates had done on the field in his name.
“Tommy’s mother came into our halftime huddle and talked to the team,” Rosas said. “She told us that we were doing a great job — that is what Tommy wanted. It was pretty cool.”
The emotional impact on the team was obvious by its play in the second half.
“To me, it was about playing all these years with Tommy,” Ballow explained. “When we started playing lacrosse in high school, we started looking at Otay Ranch. We always wanted to beat them. Everyone on this team was playing for Tommy, not for themselves.”
Jordan Vicente matched Hayes with a hat trick in the game while Stanko, the MVP on this season’s wrestling team, finished with three points on two goals and one assist. Dylan Furseth rounded out the EHS scoring with one assist while Rogelio Macedo collected seven goalie saves.
Ballow led the Titans with 14 shots in the game.
Jake Weidner paced the Mustangs with three goals while teammate Josh Owens scored twice and Cristian Moran and Joey Parisi each scored once.
“I knew if I could take Jake off his game defensively that we had more offensive weapons than they did,” Stanko said. “That (allowed) Devon to go on a rampage.”
“Last year, we came out with fire in our eyes and died in the second half,” Ballow said. “I kept repeating that we couldn’t afford to come out super hot and get cold.
“Everyone stepped up on defense and everyone stepped up on offense — everyone was playing for each other.”
And, most of all, for Tommy.
Even the Mustangs invoked his name in defeat.
“Rah-rah Tommy, rah-rah Eastlake, rah-rah fans,” they chanted in unison prior to postgame handshakes — and hugs.
At that point, there no longer seemed to be a winner or loser.
“I think Tommy would want both teams to play their hardest, no matter who won,” Otay’s Owens said upon reflection.
The teams rematch May 8 in the regular season finale at EHS. That will be for the league title.
Henderson’s spirit is certain to be hovering over the field again, cheering even louder.
Eastlake 7-0, 11-2
Otay Ranch 6-1, 7-5
Bonita Vista 5-2, 8-5
Hilltop 4-3, 6-7
Mar Vista 2-4, -4*
Montgomery 2-5, 4-6
Southwest 1-5, 1-10*
Chula Vista 0-7, 0-8
Monday, April 15
Eastlake 15, Otay Ranch 8
Bonita Vista 7, Hilltop 3
Montgomery 11, Chula Vista 4
Southwest at Mar Vista, no report
Friday, April 12
Preuss School 6, Bonita Vista 5
Wednesday, April 10
Eastlake 11, Hilltop 1
Otay Ranch 16, Bonita Vista 10
Montgomery 10, Southwest 1
Mar Vista 17, Chula Vista 2
Monday, April 8
Otay Ranch 14, Hilltop 2
Eastlake 12, Bonita Vista 5
Mar Vista 16, Montgomery 12
Southwest 4, Chula Vista 2
Friday, April 5
Hilltop 8, Mar Vista 3
Otay Ranch 20, Foothills Christian 0
Olympian 7, Southwest 3
Olympian tops Southwest for second win in school history
The fledgling Olympian Eagles boys lacrosse team picked up its second win in their inaugural season after topping the host Southwest Raiders, 7-3, on April 5.
The non-league victory pushed Olympian’s record to 2-9.
“The game against Southwest was a well-played game by both teams,” OHS coach Keith Quigley said. “Both teams definitely came to play and displayed lots of hard work and hustle. Our goalie, J.C. Madrid, did a great job in goal coming up with some big saves. Alex Medina played a very strong game at attack, and our defensive players played a strong game limiting the amount of quality scoring chances for Southwest.”
Medina leads the Eagles in season scoring.
Southwest turned around to score its first win of the season on April 8 as the Raiders doubled up host Chula Vista 4-2. “It was a good game played by both teams and we were happy to come out with a victory against a worthy opponent,” coach Jerry Nestlerode said.
Mustangs edge Spartans, score first Metro win of 2013 season
The Otay Ranch High School girls lacrosse team claimed its first Metro Conference victory of the 2013 season after defeating the host Chula Vista Spartans, 8-5, on Monday. The victory followed setbacks to Bonita Vista (7-4) and Eastlake (10-5) the previous week.
“The girls went out there and played with heart,” ORHS coach Mary Cory said. “They believed in each other and met their potential.”
Jessamae Egana led the Mustangs with five goals and recorded two ground balls in Monday’s win while Danica Satumbaga scored four times in the April 10 loss to Eastlake.
Prior to meeting the Titans, Otay Ranch defeated Point Loma, 10-6, in a non-league game on April 9. Cynthia Perez and Kim Luu led the Mustangs with three goals each.
According to coach Robert Blas, Eastlake is off to its best start in the program’s five years of existence. The Titans entered Wednesday’s match at defending league champion Hilltop sporting a 6-1 overall record.
The 2013 Titans are led by senior Kindred Lowman and juniors Gillian Stargensky (soccer) and Alexyss McClellan (field hockey).
“They have proven to be a threat on the offensive side of the field,” Blas said. “Each of them has contributed goals in our 3-0 Mesa League start (wins against Mar Vista, Otay Ranch and Bonita Vista).”
Blas noted the team’s defense has been solid, led by sophomore goalie Mariell Sabado (volleyball and basketball), Jacky Ponce (roller hockey) and seniors Mariella Romo and Alexis Donaldson.
The team’s senior captains on defense include Haley Watkins and Yvonne Apodaca.