The PUCKidz Spring Elementary Lacrosse League held its inaugural championship playoff tournament March 14 at Feaster Charter School in Chula Vista.
Four teams in the novel afterschool program participated: Chula Vista Hills, Hilltop Drive and Hedenkamp elementary schools along with host Feaster Charter.
In semifinal match-ups, Hilltop Drive defeated Feaster, 8-0, while Hedenkamp edged Chula Vista Hills 6-5.
The championship game proved to be quite eventful as Hedenkamp handed Hilltop Drive its first loss of the season to ruin an otherwise perfect season with an 8-3 victory.
“For our first time ever doing this league we felt it went really well,” PUCKidz program director Keith Quigley said. “The kids from the various four schools were really excited to be able to represent their school and play actual games versus one another. The kids in all my lacrosse programs are always asking to play games against other schools and this league gave them that opportunity.”
The number of participants included 48 children.
“We’re already thinking about next year and expanding the league to more schools,” Quigley noted. “We really hope to have at least six schools in the league next season, if not more. I think once more and more schools hear about the success of this league this first season there will be plenty more schools interested in joining in on the fun.”
Having fun while learning a new sport was the key message delivered at the inaugural championship finals — and over the course of the season.
If you’ve ever watched a high school, college or even professional lacrosse game, it was easy to follow the strategy employed at the elementary school level as all levels employ the same skills.
Teamwork and communication was especially important for the winning team as Hedenkamp competed with just six players, among them some of the shortest players among the four teams.
“Teamwork, shorter stints, getting kids on the field faster, giving kids time to rest and getting them back in,” explained Hedenkamp coach Steven Boudreaux, who played four years under Quigley at Olympian High School and is now attending Southwestern College.
“They’re really great kids. They are really respectful and want to learn. They have chemistry together.”
Elvene Alcos, a fifth grade teacher at Hilltop Drive who serves as Quigley’s assistant coach at Olympian, coached the school’s first-year team to a 6-0 regular season record.
Alcos wanted to give something back to the program after his son played three years for Quigley at both Olympian and in Quigley’s LAX 619 club program.
“I’m very happy with the group,” Alcos said. “They play with skill on the field, and we have enough players for a strong bench.”
Quigley lauded the sportsmanship, hustle and effort of the participating teams above final scores.
Final Regular Season Standings
Hilltop Drive 6-0
Chula Vista Hills 2-4
Feaster Charter 1-5
Semifinal playoff game: Hedenkamp 6, Chula Vista Hills 5
Championship game: Hedenkamp 8, Hilltop Drive 3
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National Lacrosse League:
Seals reward fans with 13-12 thriller over defending NLL champions, inch closer to securing playoff berth
The first-year San Diego Seals continued their march to the National Lacrosse League playoffs by extending their current win streak to four games following Friday’s 13-12 squeaker over the defending league champion Saskatchewan Rush.
San Diego continues to surprise despite its status as an expansion team. The Seals certainly surprised the Rush, which had administered a 16-12 defeat to San Diego during a Canadian road swing in January.
Since then, the Seals have solidified their position as a championship contender. Friday’s win over the defending NLL champions has to send shockwaves across the 11-team league.
The Seals entered Friday’s spotlight match-up holding a one-game lead on the Rush in the Western Division standings. That lead is now two games after Friday’s key win.
San Diego improves to 8-4 while Saskatchewan drops to 6-6 as the Seals inch ever closer to clinching a playoff berth in their inaugural season.
The Seals complete their three-game season series against the Rush with an April 12 home game. Prior to that, the San Diego team will take its four-game winning on a three-game road swing to Calgary, Duluth, Ga., and Uncasville, Conn., for matches against the Roughnecks, Swarm and New England Black Wolves, respectively.
The 2019 NLL playoffs will feature the top four teams in each division earning a ticket to postseason play. The regular season division champion will host the fourth-place team in its division while the second- and third-place teams will meet. In both instances, the higher-seeded team will host the one-game playoff match.
The two semifinal-round winners will meet in a one-game division final, with the division champions to meet in a best-of-three championship series to determine the 2019 NLL champion.
Seals general manager and head coach Patrick Merrill called the Rush “a really good team.”
“They’re well-coached and we know how hard they compete,” Merrill said in a post-game media chat. “Our goal was to match them punch-for-punch and try to hang in there and win one late. We were able to come out on top in the end against a really good team, so that a big win.”
Hanging on to a one-goal lead, the Seals defense held the Rush scoreless for over six minutes to close out the game.
“It was a close game,” Seals captain Brodie Merrill said. “There’s not much of a margin for error when you play Saskatchewan. You have to be tight and focus on the details every shift. Any kind of lapse you have they’re going to make you pay. We had an early lead and we knew they were going to have their push, and we held off.”
Seals goaltender Frank Scigliano stood tall between the pipes all night. He stopped 39 shots on goal, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s his demeanor,” Merrill added. “He’s a very solid guy, he’s reliable, a great teammate and someone you want to play in front of. But as a goalie, he’s coming into his own. He’s a younger guy, it’s been fun to kind of watch him be our X-factor and you don’t close a game like this without goaltending. He made the timely saves tonight.”
Forward Garrett Billings finished the night with 10 points (1 goal, 9 assists), while forward Kyle Buchanan added four goals and four assists in the win. The Seals defensive unit was strong for an entire 60 minutes against a threatening Rush offense.
“I credit the defense,” Scigliano noted. “They give me the opportunity to see the ball. We’re playing our systems well. We’re taking good shots and I credit a lot of the success to them.”
The Seals scored six goals in the final five minutes of their March 16 game against the visiting Philadelphia Wings to record a 13-11 come-from-behind victory in a match-up of fellow expansion teams.
“It was not our best game by any means,” Merrill said after the win that extended the Seals’ win streak to three games. “Especially in the third quarter, but what an exciting finish for our fans. Our guys stepped up and made some huge plays in the fourth quarter and we pulled one out. I’ve been a part of a lot of big comebacks in this league and I’ll surely see some more before the season ends, but this one was pretty sweet for sure.”
In a rollercoaster game, a six-goal run by the Wings diminished an early three-goal San Diego lead. However, the Seals’ six goals in the fourth quarter were enough to post the comeback victory.
“We could not have done it without (the crowd) tonight,” Merrill said. “It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. They were able to put the wind in our sails and we embraced the energy and played off it.”
Veteran forward Dan Dawson scored five goals and added two assists. With his assist in the second quarter, Dawson sat alone in third place on the NLL all-time leaderboard in career assists (858).
“He’s a beast,” Seals teammate Connor Kelly noted. “He’s one of the all-time greats. Honestly, I look up to him as a player. I try and pick his brain every practice. He’s such a smart player and obviously he became the third all-time assist leader tonight, so he deserves it.”
Billings finished the night with seven assists, while forward Casey Jackson added three goals and three assists to propel the Seals to the win. Scigliano stopped 34 shots in the game, including 21 in the first half.
“It was the best comeback I’ve seen in my career,” Kelly said. “It was an awesome night and the place was rocking. It felt awesome and it was an awesome win.”
The Seals have averaged 8,807 fans through their opening five home games (seventh best in the league).