The Eastlake High School boys lacrosse team strung together three consecutive Metro Conference championships from 2005 to 2007, won another in 2009, but has played the role of runner-up to the Otay Ranch Mustangs the past three seasons.
The Titans could be back on top this season if early season play — and a 6-2 record — is any indicator.
According to EHS coach Nestor Rosas, the 2013 Titans will be skewed toward the young end of the spectrum this spring but still loaded with talent.
“We’ve got a lot of juniors and sophomores who expect to help us this year,” Rosas said.
Top players this season, according to Rosas, include attackmen Ryan Hayes, a junior, Devon Ballow, a senior, and Dylan Furseth, a sophomore; midfielders Casey Stanko, a senior, Jordan Vicente, a sophomore, and Kevin Googins, a senior; and defensemen Santiago Andujo, a sophomore, and Alex Billies, a senior, who is recovering from an injury sustained last season.
Stanko, who will attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., this fall, was the team’s MVP last season with 53 goals and 13 assists while Hayes finished second in team scoring with 25 goals and 21 assists. Ballow (33 goals, six assists) and Vicente (23 goals, 16 assists) tied for third.
Stanko also paced the team in 2012 with 120 ground balls while Vicente totaled 68 ground balls to cap a superlative freshman season.
Hayes (11 goals, 31 points), Stanko (20 goals, 24 points), Ballow (15 goals, 20 points) and Vicente (14 goals, 18 points) have led the team’s start in 2013.
Hayes earned Player of the Game honors in a 10-5 victory against Valhalla on March 5 with one goal, five ground balls and five assists and keyed his team with five points (two goals, three assists) in a 14-2 win over Helix on March 8. He led the Titans with seven points (two goals, five assists) in a 19-3 Metro Conference win at Mar Vista on March 18 and six points (three goals, three assists) in a 21-1 win at Montgomery on March 20.
Stanko, who has one of the quickest and hardest shots on the team, scored five goals against Mar Vista and has recorded hat tricks in three other games, including last Friday’s 15-2 non-league victory against visiting Olympian.
Ballow, meanwhile, stepped into the spotlight with a breakout four-goal performance against Helix. He contributed three goals and two assists in the win over Mar Vista.
Ballow and junior Jake Randall each scored four times against Montgomery.
Sophomore Christian Haffner tops Eastlake with 42 ground balls through eight games — eight ahead of Stanko, last year’s leader.
While standout young talent permeates the Titans’ lineup, Eastlake will have to reshape itself in the net. Lost to graduation is last year’s goalie, Joseph Leonor, who racked up 11 wins.
Mitchell Sabado was the Titans’ Player of the Game in a 16-5 season opening loss to Granite Hills on March 1 while making his varsity debut with 13 saves on 17 shots against a very good Eagles team. He is competing for playing time with fellow senior Rogelio Macedo.
“We’ll go with what we have and see who steps up between the two,” Rosas said.
Three in a row, how about four?
Three-time defending league champion Otay Ranch, meanwhile, has gotten off to a rough start due to injuries. The Mustangs took their lumps in a 13-4 non-league loss to visiting Monte Vista in its season opener on March 14 and followed that with a 7-4 setback at San Dieguito Academy the next day.
A 19-3 victory in its league opener at Montgomery on March 18 did help to alleviate the pain of the team’s 0-2 start.
But the Mustangs were down to just 16 players on the varsity roster through three games.
“Coming into this season, we knew this year’s team was going to be lean,” ORHS coach Doug Murphy said. “We started out with 22 players when we normally would have 35-plus to make cuts.”
No one is pushing the panic button just yet, and it’s a long season for players to heal, grades to mend and newcomers to step up and make an impact.
The Mustangs continue to be led by 2012 Metro Player of the Year Jake Weidner, whom Murphy rates among the top 15 players in the entire San Diego Section.
“That’s legitimate,” the ORHS sideline boss said matter-of-factly.
Weidner, an experienced club lacrosse player and MVP of the school’s boys water polo team during the fall sports season, scored 10 goals in the win over Montgomery. He has signed to play collegiate lacrosse at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., a top Division III school nationally.
“Our goal is to win a CIF playoff game, and that’s never been done before” Weidner said. “We have a strong upcoming class of sophomores and juniors. We’re fast, we play well as a team, we have good ball mechanics and good competition throughout our lineup. Hard work, dedication and playing as a team will make us successful.”
Weidner enters the 2013 season after earning MVP honors for the nationally-ranked Laxdawgs Brown club team. He was an all-tournament pick at January’s massive 12th annual Adrenaline Best in the West Challenge that attracted 120 teams from 17 states and two Canadian provinces to a 20-field site at the Del Mar polo grounds.
He scored seven goals in a 16-5 win over visiting Mar Vista on March 22 to push the defending Metro champs to a 2-0 start in league play and tallied six goals in Tuesday’s 15-7 non-league setback to visiting Canyon Crest Academy, ranked 10th among section teams by LaxPower.com.
Other Mustangs to watch, according to Murphy, include senior attackman Nick Zvirzin (currently injured), senior midfielder Josh Owens, senior defender Nick Christian, sophomore defender Peter Lindung, junior attackman Christian Moran and junior goalie Sabin Mosier.
Metro Conference Boys Lacrosse Scoreboard
Boys Lacrosse Standings
(Through March 27)
Eastlake 2-0, 6-2
Bonita Vista 2-0, 5-2
Hilltop 2-0, 4-3
Otay Ranch 2-0, 2-3
Mar Vista 0-1, 1-2
Montgomery 0-2, 2-3
Chula Vista 0-2, 0-3
Southwest 0-2, 0-6
Note: Olympian is playing a freelance schedule in 2013
Monday, March 18
Bonita Vista 20, Chula Vista 0
Eastlake 19, Mar Vista 3
Otay Ranch 19, Montgomery 3
Hilltop 8, Southwest 0
Wednesday, March 20
Bonita Vista 13, Southwest 0
Eastlake 21, Montgomery 1
Hilltop 8, Chula Vista 0
Otay Ranch 16, Mar Vista 5
Friday, March 22
Eastlake 15, Olympian 2
Patrick Henry 7, Hilltop 2
Saturday, March 23
Helix 15, Bonita Vista 10
Tuesday, March 26
Canyon Crest Academy 15, Otay Ranch 7
Wednesday, March 27
Olympian 11, Chula Vista 3
Friday, March 29
Serra at Olympian, 6 p.m.