The 2014 high school girls lacrosse season is heading into the home stretch and the action appears to just be heating up, especially in the newly-expanded eight-team Metro Conference.
Three teams, and possibly a fourth, appear to have a legitimate shot at winning this year’s league championship.
“I like the league,” Eastlake coach Robert Blas explained. “I like the way the league has split at the top. It gives us a chance to have more competitive games on our schedule.”
Competitive seems to be the word.
Eastlake finished the opening round of league play atop the league standings with a 7-0 record. But two of those wins – 7-6 against Bonita Vista and 13-12 against Hilltop — came by one-goal margins. The Titans started the second round of league play with a come-from-behind 12-5 win against visiting Mar Vista on April 14 to improve to 8-0 in Metro play, but were on the losing end of a 10-6 decision at Bonita Vista on Thursday to jumble up the standings.
The Barons, who improved to 7-2 in league play with the win, moved one game behind first place Eastlake in the standings with five league games remaining on their schedule.
Understandably, Thursday’s win was a big one for the hosts.
“This was a very pivotal game for us,” noted Bonita Vista head coach Ernesto Luna. “If we would have lost today, we would have been vying for third or fourth place.”
Instead, the Barons appear to be vying with both Eastlake (8-1 in league) and Hilltop (6-1 in league) for the league title heading into the final two weeks of the season.
“Hilltop has one loss, Eastlake has one loss and we have two losses, so we’re playing from behind right now,” Luna said.
The Barons played from ahead on Thursday, taking a 10-3 lead before the Titans scored three late goals.
Lauren Gonzalez led Bonita Vista (11-2 overall) with three goals and two assists while Boran Groon and Melinda Miranda each scored two goals.
Gillian Stargensky led Eastlake (8-2 overall) with three goals while teammate Alexyss McClelland scored twice.
“Hats off to them — they played well and did a great job preparing for us,” Blas noted in acknowledging the Barons’ winning effort.
“This was one of those games where we had to do a lot of hard detailed planning,” Luna said. “That first round game was so close, I think the start of this one was going to be close as well.”
The league champion — whichever team it might be — receives an automatic berth in May’s San Diego Section divisional playoffs. Still, the four or five top teams in the conference expect to be invited to this year’s post-season party — Hilltop (6-3 overall) in Division I and Bonita Vista, Eastlake, Otay Ranch (5-4 in league, 8-5 overall) and possibly Mar Vista (3-5 in league, 5-7 overall) in Division II.
“Since we’re in Division II, our record is pretty strong,” Luna noted. “Whether we finish first, second or third, I think we’ll be in there (even as an at-large team).”
“I think Bonita will get in, Otay Ranch will get in, we’ll get in and I think Hilltop should have a good chance of getting in,” Blas said.
“The key for any of the teams is winning the league,” Luna said. “With each game from now on riding on a possible championship outcome, it’s scary but exciting.”
The visiting Hilltop Lancers gave a determined effort but the Bonita Vista Barons proved to be the better team on the field in recording a 6-1 Mesa League victory Thursday.
“We have our good moments and our bad moments,” explained BVHS coach Sam Cardenas, whose team improved to 1-1 in league play, 5-5 overall. “We’re still not where we want to be at this point of the season but there’s still plenty of games left on our schedule. I think we’re still going to be in the playoffs.”
The first quarter ended scoreless but with Hilltop owning a decisive territorial advantage. The opening half of the second quarter duplicated the start of the game but the hosts managed to finish the final minutes of the quarter with a flurry, scoring twice to take a 2-0 halftime lead.
Jason Bergado scored the first goal for Bonita Vista and Robert Rodriguez scored the second to support the shutout goalkeeping of Baron netminder Giancarlo Dongo.
The Lancers finally got one past the BV defense as Nick Johnson beat second-half Baron goalie Daniel Chier. But the Barons turned up the intensity with three goals to end the third quarter to move into a 5-1 lead.
Hilltop coach Pete Bishop said lacrosse games are often decided in the third quarter with a flurry by one of the teams.
It happened to be Bonita Vista on Thursday.
Tony Cardenas gave the hosts some much-needed breathing room by scoring to make the score 3-1. Thomas Sullivan then scored two goals in the waning moments of the quarter to squarely place momentum on the Barons’ side.
Rodriguez scored the lone goal of the final quarter, very late in the contest, for his second goal of the game.
Chier came up big with a shutout in the final quarter to steer his team to the win.
The loss was the third in a row for the Lancers (0-2 in league, 7-9 overall).
Bergado had two goals in Monday’s 7-4 loss at Otay Ranch in the teams’ league opener while Rodriguez and Sullivan each scored once. Dongo had 15 saves in the loss.
For Otay Ranch, Sam Kaplan and Cristian Moran were each credited with two goals while Milo Bivens, Matt Deleon and Peter Lindung each were credited with one goal.
Defending league champion Eastlake won its league opener on Monday at Hilltop by a 20-1. Team scoring leader Ryan Hayes led all players on the field with six goals and one assist while fellow senior Jake Randall picked up five assists and junior Dylan Furseth contributed two goals and three assists.
Hilltop had generated some momentum with back-to-back wins against Montgomery (6-3 on April 7) and Mar Vista (7-2 on April 9) to even their record at .500 (6-6).
Olympian won its seventh game in a row after defeating visiting Montgomery, 18-2, in a non-league contest on Monday. Anthony Hughes earned player of the game honors by tallying three goals and two assists while also scooping up seven ground balls for the Eagles (8-1). Michael Machuca (six goals) and Alex Medina (five goals, one assist) led Olympian in Monday’s game with six points each.
However, he Eagles' streak ended there after a 7-6 setback to visiting Otay Ranch on Thursday.
Mesa League Boys Lacrosse Standings
Otay Ranch Mustangs 2-0
Eastlake Titans 1-0
Bonita Vista Barons 1-1
Olympian Eagles 0-1
Hilltop Lancers 0-2
Monday, April 14
Otay Ranch 7, Bonita Vista 4
Eastlake 20, Hilltop 1
Thursday, April 17
Otay Ranch 7, Olympian 6
Bonita Vista 6, Hilltop 1