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Eastlake lacrosse team displays winning edge heading into Metro play Phillip Brents | Fri, Apr 04 2014 05:59 PM

The Eastlake Titans were scheduled to play the Francis Parker Lancers in what expected to be a very competitive high school boys lacrosse game on Thursday. But the Lancers could not provide the level of competition they sought due to a lack of players over spring break and forfeited the game.

But that didn’t stop the host Titans from putting on an intra-squad showcase. In a lengthy and highly entertaining match-up that finished long after sundown (like many legendary native American contests), Team Blue Thunder edged Team White Lightning, 7-6, in overtime.

“When we divide up our junior varsity and varsity teams and mix them together, it’s pretty competitive,” EHS head coach Nestor Rosas explained.

Officially, the Titans picked up the forfeit victory to extend their season record to 6-3. It comes after Rosas’ team had played through the toughest part of its schedule following grueling non-league match-ups last week against Scripps Ranch and Westview, both EHS losses.

The Titans dropped an 8-5 decision to Scripps Ranch on March 27 and a 12-6 decision to fourth-ranked Westview on March 31.

Though somewhat bruised and banged up by the two high level encounters, Rosas feels his team accomplished what it set out to do — engage the San Diego Section’s elite teams and give them a run for their money.

Monday’s game against visiting Westview was tied 4-4 midway through the third quarter.

“We were down 4-2 at the half and charged back to tie the game,” Rosas noted with an air of pride. “But they came back to go ahead 5-4. After that, the wheels came off. They had fresher legs and they kept coming. We gave up six goals in the fourth quarter. We just didn’t have any more gas in our tank.

“We played three great quarters of lacrosse. We just got tired at the end. If you take away those last 12 minutes of the game, we were right there with them.”

Junior middie Jordan Vicente led Eastlake with four goals in the setback to the high-powered Wolverines (5-3) while teammates Garrett Miele and Chase Morris each scored once and senior co-captain Ryan Hayes collected four assists. Vicente took a team-high 10 shots while junior Christian Haffner collected a team-high eight ground balls and sophomore Michaelangelo Aguirre won six of 11 face-offs.

In the game against Scripps Ranch, Hayes scored four goals while Vicente had one goal. Haffner won all six face-offs he took while collecting a team-high six ground balls. Freshman goalie Nathan McPeak had 16 saves despite allowing eight goals.

Rosas said this year’s EHS team has the potential to rank among the best in school history despite the glut of underclassmen on the roster.

“Every game, we’ve tried to pick it up a level by playing teams at our level or better than us,” the Titan coach explained. “We’ve played a lot of very good teams early in the season and we’re hoping that will help us in the seeding for the playoffs. We’re heading into the league portion of our schedule now, and it looks like we should make a strong run.”

Eastlake finished 14-0 in Metro Conference play last season to set school and conference records for most league wins in one season. The Titans finished 18-3 overall but dropped a 7-5 opening round playoff contest to Granite Hills after holding a 5-2 halftime lead.

This is a different team this year, however.

Last year’s EHS squad had a lot of agenda on its plate while playing for the memory of beloved teammate Tommy Henderson, who died unexpectedly in the opening weeks of the 2013 season. The Titans won the league banner for Henderson with an emotion-filled 14-10 victory against arch rival Otay Ranch on the final day of regular season play.

Star player Casey Stanko, who Rosas noted “carried the team on his back last season,” is now at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. It’s been up to players like Hayes and Vicente to lead this year’s team, and mold it into something different.

“We recently passed the first-year anniversary of Tommy’s death and while his memory will always be very important and very special to us, it’s time to finally let go and move on,” Rosas noted.

By the spirit displayed in Thursday’s intra-squad showcase, it looks like Rosas and his coaching staff have another winner on their hands.

Team chemistry oozes from every corner of the lineup. It’s evident watching the Titans play, even against each other, that they enjoy playing the game of lacrosse and enjoy playing it together as a team.

Those are two qualities that should make them hard to beat in upcoming games against conference opponents.

“It’s some of the best times when we're on the field together,” junior long stick middle/defenseman Christian Haffner explained. “Everyone is super pumped up, and we get pretty excited. We can get pretty crazy. We try to keep things fun but serious at the same time.”

Vicente and Hayes are vying for the team scoring lead. Hayes currently leads the friendly rivalry with 34 points on 16 goals and team-leading 18 assists while Vicente ranks second with 32 points on a team-leading 26 goals and six assists.

Senior Jake Randall ranks third on the team in scoring with five goals and five assists. Five other players have scored at least one goal so far this season. That ranks as a definite team strength, Rosas noted.

Haffner leads the team with 52 ground balls, followed by Vicente with 32 and juniors Chase Morris (28) and Santiago Andujo (22). The ability to possess the ball is perhaps the No. 1 fundamental in the game of lacrosse.

“It takes of a lot of hand-eye coordination,” Haffner explained in summing up the art of fielding.

“It has to do a lot with timing, you’ve got to know just when to go for it,” Vicente interjected.

Haffner chuckled. “I just run as fast as I can."

Alex Spanjer scored the game-winner in Thursday’s intra-squad match, assisted by Vicente.

The Titans return to action with nine consecutive games against conference opponents to close out regular season play. First up is a road match at Chula Vista (0-4) on April 10, followed by a game at Hilltop (3-5) on April 14, a home game against Bonita Vista (3-3) on April 21 and key away matches at Olympian (6-1) on April 25 and Otay Ranch (0-4) on April 28.

Haffner said he feels the Titans need to shore up their fourth quarter fitness in order to be become a better team and contend for a playoff berth.

“We need more endurance,” he noted. “We’ll be running a lot more, and that should help us. Hopefully, when we get to the playoffs, we can beat some of these teams that beat us early in the season.”

Flying like an Eagle
Olympian defeated host Chula Vista, 8-3, on Thursday to improve to 6-1 on the season. Junior Alex Medina led the second-year Eagles with three goals and one assist while junior Anthony Hughes scored two goals, senior Michael Machuca contributed a goal and two assists, junior Carlo Reyes had a goal and assist, senior Fernando Medal scored once and sophomore Mohammed Dakhil picked up one assist.

Medel led Olympian with 13 ground balls while Hughes had eight and Machuca, Reyes and sophomore Tyler Santini each had six.

OHS coach Keith Quigley selected Santini as his player of the game. “Through four quarters, he got after it, hustled and worked the entire game,” Quigley noted.

Medel won six of eight face-offs while junior J.C. Madrid made seven saves while allowing two goals in 43 minutes of playing time; freshman Rueben Granados gave up one goal in five minutes of action.

The Eagles, off to a school-record start, next play at San Diego High School on April 11, followed by a non-league home game against Montgomery on April 14. Olympian hosts Otay Ranch to start Mesa League play on April 17.

Machuca leads Olympian in scoring with 26 points on 20 goals and six assists, followed by senior Christian Benitez with 22 points (16 goals, six assists), Medina with 21 points (15 goals, six assists), Hughes with 15 points (10 goals, five assists) and Reyes with 14 points (11 goals, three assists).

Medel ranks as one of the county leaders with 69 ground balls, followed by Hughes with 39 and Machuca with 31. Medel has also won 62 of 84 face-offs on the season while Madrid has made 46 saves on 67 shots to go with a 3.20 goaltending-average.

The Eagles are averaging 12 goals on offense in seven games.

Go green

Hilltop defeated visiting Foothills Christian, 12-2, on Monday to secure its third victory of the season in non-league play. Andy Barrios led the Lancers with five goals on five shots while Jacob Moctezuma contributed two goals and one assist, Sergio Valencia scored twice and Nick Johnson, Tristyn Mitchell and Bryton Madarang each chipped in with one goal.

Jared Akers led Hilltop with nine ground balls while goalies Roberto Corrales and Austin Lozano each received credit for one save.

The Lancers were less fortunate in Wednesday’s non-league game at La Jolla Country Day, losing 15-0.

In the latter game, Corrales made seven saves in the first quarter before leaving the game with an injury while Lozano finished up the game with five saves. Akers led Hilltop in fielding with five ground balls.

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