Four games into a season is usually not a good time to be evaluating the long-term potential of one’s team, but in the case of La Costa Canyon girls lacrosse, let’s just say week two of the 2018 season provided a pretty clear statement that this will be a team that bears watching for the next two months—meaning, expect the 4-0 Mavericks to be at or near the front of the pack chasing one of the eight slots in the CIF Open Division Championship bracket.
Eighth-year Head Coach Casey Rector has won four CIF Open Division crowns in her tenure at LCC. But you’d hardly know they’d been there before based on the celebration following Wednesday night’s, 10-5, triumph over host Torrey Pines.
Coach Kaitlin Doucette’s Falcons are two-time defending CIF title holders and had not been on the losing end of a game against a San Diego opponent since dropping the 2015 CIF championship match to La Costa Canyon. Yes, Torrey has had limited training opportunity and due to cancellations, this was the squad’s first game but with these two rivals there is never just an average encounter.
“That win gave our team a lot of confidence and for our upperclassmen, got them out of the mindset that they couldn’t beat Torrey Pines,” said Rector, a star herself for the Mavericks then playing college lacrosse at Oregon. “I’ve been in Kaitlin’s shoes before and when you’ve won back-to-back CIF titles, you’ve got a big target on your back.
“They will be back. She’s a great coach, lost a solid group of senior leaders to graduation and developing that takes time. This was their first game and they have some rebuilding to do, like everyone else.”
LCC spotted Torrey Pines the game’s first two goals but were an offensive steamroller from that point forward. Seniors Caitlin (CJ) Jones and Tessa Bass racked up four goals apiece and junior goalie Alex Walling turned away 13 shots for the Mavericks. All four of Jones’ scores came in the first half, sending LCC into the break with a 7-2 advantage, having clearly established which team was in control.
“This was a big win, Torrey Pines is our biggest rival,” said Jones. “When they scored the first goal, we knew we had to kick it in gear. After we got our first goal, we just kept rolling and rolling and things just got better.”
Although she was quick not to attach too much significance to the meaning of an early season match-up like this, Rector knows it can pay dividends down the line. “We will play them once more in the regular season and maybe again in the playoffs,” said Rector. “When we get to that point, we certainly won’t go in overconfident and cocky but we will have the mindset that ‘hey, we’ve done it before’ and they’ll know that too.”
Rector, whose team ran its record to 4-0 with a hard fought, 12-6, road win at Cathedral Catholic two nights later, shared time afterward to answer questions about her team as well as the girls lacrosse outlook in both the league and section.
Q—What is the personality of this year’s team?
RECTOR—Right now, this team is trying to figure out its chemistry. We have a roster of 22 and only eight are returning varsity players. We have seven freshmen in the group. A lot of teaching has to be done because the varsity game is a lot different than JV or middle school. So, in a sense we’re rebuilding, like we do every year.
I would say we’re very passionate but with the relative inexperience, we’ll need to up our lacrosse IQ as the season progresses.
Q—What do you consider its strengths?
RECTOR—The midfield, which his headed by Jones and Bass, will be a key for us. We always want to outwork and out-hustle—that’s our bread and butter—and that starts in the midfield. We may not be the best team but we will always be the hardest working team. We like to say “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Right now, our defense is young and our offense is young but we’ve got a solid goalie (second-year starter Alex Walling who transferred after playing her freshman season at Torrey Pines) and with those players in the midfield, they’re able to upgrade the play on both ends of the field.
Q—What have you learned about your team in these first two weeks that you didn’t know before?
RECTOR—I learned that they have more in them than they thought and maybe even more than I thought. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how the Torrey Pines game was going to turn out, let alone that we would win it in the manner we did. That result will help us become even better.
We set high expectations every year and I’m hard on them because I believe that if you decide you want to win, you can. But it can’t be one or two players. It has to be everyone from the starters to the last person on the bench, seniors to freshmen—every single person has to buy into the feeling. I think we saw a little glimpse of that Wednesday.”
Q—Who are some players on your team fans should keep an eye on this year?
RECTOR—Well, obviously, CJ (Jones) and Tessa (Bass). CJ has been on the varsity since her freshman season and has been All-Avocado League West and All-CIF first team the last two years, as well as an Under Armour and U.S. Lacrosse All-American. She outworks every single person no matter the drill, the run or the situation. Wherever the ball is on the field, she will 100 percent be there and I will put my money on her coming up with it every single time.
She’s so solid on draws and has been going to goal harder this year. CJ always leads by example, helps out the younger girls and has that attitude that she’s simply not going to allow a loss. She’s going to San Diego State next year.
Tessa is a real work horse and also our “firecracker.” She is an excellent player but just as importantly gets everyone going and is the voice in the huddle—making sure everyone knows what we need to do. She gets so fired up about playing and makes the most of the leadership role she has on the team. She’s excited to be out there every single day and brings that fire to the team.
Senior forward Lina Savage is also part of the heart and soul of the team. She got hurt in our first game, so missed the next three, but having her back will make us much stronger. And junior midfielder Sarah McLean, who’s already committed to play at Denver University, will play a big role for us.
Q—How would you breakdown this year’s Avocado West teams?
RECTOR—Well, I think we’ll be right up there with Torrey Pines again. The two of us would have to be the favorites going in.
Looking at the other four teams, San Dieguito Academy is always in the mix. They have a lot of kids in their program and everyone loves to play for Coach (Chuck) Kaczmarek. Canyon Crest Academy has a new coach, Gabby Kraszewski. They lost a lot of good athletes but scored 20 goals in their first game and could surprise a lot of people. Carlsbad doesn’t usually get as many good lacrosse players as we have at LCC and Torrey Pines, but they reached the championship game of the CIF Division One tournament in both 2015 and 2016 so they are always competitive. Sage Creek has a brand new program.
Q—Who do see challenging for the CIF Open title?
RECTOR—I think it’s going to be pretty open this year. Our team and Torrey Pines should be right in the fight and I would expect to see Poway and Cathedral Catholic right there as well. Scripps Ranch and La Jolla might be sleepers to watch.