When La Costa Canyon boys lacrosse coach Kevin Cooper called a timeout with 3:51 remaining in the first overtime period at Cathedral Catholic Tuesday night, March 20, he felt his team had not consistently been winning the one-on-one match-ups in the attacking end and he told them, “I need somebody who wants to beat their man and score a game-winning goal on the back side.” Sophomore midfielder Jorge Montgomery stepped up and said he wanted it.
Thirteen seconds later, Montgomery got what he wanted, scoring the last of his three consecutive goals, capping a furious fourth quarter rally that lifted the Mavericks past the Dons, 8-7, in a match-up of two likely top five sectional teams. For good reason, Cooper was elated with the outcome.
“We’ve played some good, solid teams but this was the first time we’ve really faced adversity,” he said of his 5-0 club. “To see our guys taste a little adversity, be beat down the whole game, still want it down the stretch and go out and grab it—that was a really good thing to see out of our boys.”
Comeback seems a bit tame to describe the escape act LCC pulled in this one. Put on their heels from the opening draw by Cathedral, they trailed, 4-1, at halftime. When Dons’ senior Josh Tauss chalked up his third score of the night with just 3:35 remaining in regulation, regaining a three-goal edge at 7-4, it looked like lights out for the Mavericks. But the defending CIF Open Division titlists showed the grit of a champion, piercing the Cathedral goal three times in the final 2:32 to force the extra session.
JJ Sillstrop, who racked up five goals on the night, started the momentum shift, tallying his fifth at 2:32. From that point on, it was the Montgomery show. Just over a minute later, assisted by Cameron Whitfield, he pulled the Mavericks to within one. Then, after a Cathedral penalty gave LCC a man advantage for 60 seconds, he barreled in unassisted and with just 46 ticks left on the clock deadlocked the contest for the first time since the opening faceoff. Cooper’s timeout message and the game winner were almost anti-climactic.
“It was a great win,” said Cooper. “To come in here, go down, 4-1, at half and trail the entire game until the final minute, the boys showed a lot of heart, showed they won’t give up and stuck together when things got tough. Great teams win when they’re not supposed to and great teams win the close ones—we did that tonight.”
Of course, Cooper also hopes his team learned something from the game’s first three quarters. “We got in a hole by not doing the little things correctly,” said the third-year head man. “They (Cathedral) wanted it more off the wings on ground balls, they wanted it more between the lines.
“We didn’t come here prepared for a dog fight and that’s what we got from the very beginning. You’ve got to credit Cathedral. They’re a good team and they played really hard and really well. They wanted it more than us for about three-and-a-half quarters, if not more.” Junior midfielder Oliver Mirer matched Tauss with three goals for the Dons.
An unsung hero for the Mavericks was senior captain Isaac Smith who dominated on the draws, particularly in crunch time. “He’s taken a lot of draws in his career and they were putting a long stick on him, throwing all sorts of stuff at him,” said Cooper. “But down the stretch, he was the guy who gave us the opportunity to win this game by getting all those possessions.”
Both teams are back in action Friday, March 23. La Costa Canyon (5-0) will host Palos Verdes (Los Angeles) at 4 p.m. Cathedral Catholic, like LCC a 2017 CIF Open Division qualifier but a misleading 1-6 after playing an early season slate packed with national and regional heavyweights, will go down the block to face another formidable foe, Torrey Pines, at 7 p.m.