As good as the Eastlake High School boys lacrosse team has been in the past, one thing had always somehow eluded the Titans' grasp: a victory in the San Diego Section playoffs.
The Monsters of the Metro, well, to put it nicely, had fizzled in post-season play.
Last year’s 7-5 loss to Granite Hills perhaps summed it up best: Eastlake led, 5-2, at halftime, only to surrender five second-half goals while failing to score even once.
It was a bittersweet ending to an otherwise magical season that saw the Titans courageously pull off a league championship in the memory of teammate Tommy Henderson, who died in a swimming pool accident just weeks into the 2013 season.
Make no mistake, the Titans still play for Henderson’s memory. His spirit was evidently with them Tuesday night as the reigning Mesa League champions did themselves proud by becoming the first Metro boys lacrosse team to win a CIF playoff game.
It’s been a long time coming, but the Titans finally established a legacy for all other Eastlake teams to remember — and follow — by topping the visiting Canyon Crest Academy Ravens, 13-3, in a first-round Division I match-up.
The score was indicative of the Titans’ desire to win.
“We put in a lot of hard work and kept our focus and our composure,” senior co-captain Ryan Hayes noted after the history-making victory. “We didn’t look at the score. It was 0-0 in our minds.”
For those who were keeping track of the score, it was 2-0 Eastlake in the opening 1:05 of the contest and 3-0 Titans after just 2:08 had elapsed from the opening face-off.
The Ravens scored with 3:14 to play in the opening quarter to make the score 3-1 but the hosts quickly fought back with two goals of their own to lead 5-1 in the early minutes of the second period.
Eastlake led 5-2 at halftime and 9-3 entering the final quarter.
“We’re not done yet,” Titan head coach Nestor Rosas told his team in a post-game speech.
And, for the first time in school history after the opening round of the playoffs, the Titans aren’t finished. Eighth-seeded Eastlake (15-3) will play top-seeded Pacific Ridge (11-4) in Friday’s quarterfinals.
The winner advances to Tuesday’s semifinals. The Division I championship game is scheduled May 31 at Granite Hills High School.
Rosas said he feels this year's team may be the best in school history and believes his team has the talent to compete with the best in the division, a sentiment echoed by Hayes, the league scoring leader this season with 88 points (45 goals, 43 assists).
“We’re playing more unselfish, we’re starting to work more as a team, I think we’re ready for the playoffs,” Hayes said after the Titans’ 11-1 win at Bonita Vista on May 8. “I think we can shock the county.”
One down, how many more to go?
League goal-scoring leader Jordan Vicente scored five goals and one assist to lead Eastlake in Tuesday’s playoff win, including two of the team’s first three goals.
Hayes finished the game with two goals and three assists. He took a nasty tumble to the turf after scoring his first goal to make the score 4-1 with 14 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
He pounded his fist into the turf as soon as he hit the artificial surface. But it wasn’t from the ecstasy of scoring a playoff goal.
“I was hurting,” he said.
After scoring the opening goal of the third quarter, a Canyon Crest Academy player fell on Hayes’ left foot. Hayes once again pounded his fist into the carpet.
He received a hero’s welcome from teammates after returning to the field of play midway through the second quarter, though his ankle appeared to be in a makeshift splint and he limped a bit after long runs.
But, as always, he led by example and played through the pain.
And the Titans collectively sealed their legacy. Andrew Gisler scored two goals in the third quarter and Garrett Miele added another while Michaelangelo Aguirre scored the team’s second goal of the game and Ronnie Sallee and Jake Randall each notched fourth-quarter goals.
Randall, one of five seniors on the EHS roster, finished the game with a goal and three assists while freshman goalie Nate McPeak was credited with six saves.
Griffin Layman led the Ravens (10-9) with a pair of goals while Joel Aoto scored once for CCA, which received five saves from goalie Ben Hickman.
Defensively, the Titans scooped up 27 ground balls, including a team high six by junior Christian Haffner and four each by Sallee and Chase Morris, also both juniors. Morris also won six face-offs.
The Titans saved their two most hallowed cheers for last. Still ringed together at game’s end, they first chanted “Tommy,” quickly followed by “Eastlake.”
Place an exclamation mark at the end of both words.
Eagles fly to first playoff win in first-ever playoff game
The second-year Olympian Eagles didn't waste time to make history by capturing a 15-3 win over visiting El Capitan on Wednesday to record the program's first playoff win in its first-ever playoff game.
"Very big win the the Olympian lacrosse program," noted OHS coach Keith Quigley.
The sixth-seedee Eagles (13-6) will plat at third-seeded Mt. Carmel (11-6) in Friday's Division II quarterfinals. Game time is 6 p.m.
Scoring leaders in Wednesday's history-making victory included Alex Medina (four goals, two assists), Michael Machuca (two goals, two assists), Anthony Highes (one goal, three assists), Christian Benetiz (three goals), Fernando Medel (two goals).
The Olympian defense dominated the game with 60 ground balls, including a team high nine by Tyler Santini. Goalies Juan Madrid and Rueben Granados were credited with 11 combined saves.
Tuesday, May 20
(5) Scripps Ranch 11, (12) La Jolla Country Day 2
(6) Granite Hills 17, (11) Mira Mesa 2
(7) Grossmont 7, (10) Patrick Henry 5
(8) Eastlake 13, (9) Canyon Crest Academy 3
Friday, May 23
(8) Eastlake (15-3) at (1) Pacific Ridge (11-4), 4 p.m. Pacific Ridge wins 14-4
Wednesday, May 21
(6) Olympian 15, (11) El Capitan 3
(5) Valhalla 15, (12) Montgomery 3
(8) Fallbrook 6, (9) Bonita Vista 4
Friday, May 23
(6) Olympian (13-6) at (3) Mt. Carmel (11-6), 6 p.m. Mt. Carmel wins 13-5
Saturday, May 31 at Granite Hills High School
Open Division: La Costa Canyon 6, Cathedral Catholic 5
Division I: Carlsbad 15, Scripps Ranch 10
Division II: Valley Center 9, Serra 5
San Diego Section
Tuesday, May 20/Del Norte High School
Open Division: La Costa Canyon 12, Canyon Crest Academy 9
Division I: Cathedral Catholic 11, Mission Hills 8
Division II: San Marcos 12, Bonita Vista 5