A few hours before opening draw, veteran La Costa Canyon girls’ lacrosse coach Casey Belitz talked about the predictable unpredictability of the outcome in any contest between her team and Avocado West League rival Torrey Pines. After watching LCC control much of the game Tuesday night, April 23, only to hang on for dear life in the final three minutes before prevailing, 10-9, those pre-game comments were looking positively clairvoyant.
The win pushed the No. 3 (MaxPreps) Mavericks’ overall record to 8-4 and into the driver’s seat of the Avocado West championship race. Eighth-ranked Torrey Pines fell to 6-9, suffering its first Avocado West defeat. For Belitz, the evening was simply business as usual.
“No matter the records, timing or circumstances, you can never feel comfortable against Torrey Pines,” said Belitz beforehand. “This was typical and that’s the thing in this series—it can always go either way and the momentum can change in a second.”
The contest started in pretty standard fashion, the teams exchanging goals and testing the waters. The visiting Falcons seemed to create more offensive opportunities early but the improving LCC defense, backstopped by freshman goalie Jenna Gerraughty (playing her first varsity game), kept them at bay for the most part.
Halfway through the first 25 minutes, the tide started to shift. Using an assist from her sophomore sister, Ari, senior Sarah McLean pulled the Mavericks even at three with 11:24 remaining. It proved to be the catalyst that made Belitz’s offense click.
McLean converted again at 3:36 and just over a minute later a nice spin move up top opened junior Hannah Etheridge for a cross cage goal and suddenly La Costa Canyon had the first two-point lead of the night. As the Mavericks slowed down play to work the clock, McLean earned an eight-meter and with 45 ticks outstanding made it 6-3. Pushing to the buzzer, junior Sierra Lizerbram, a presence all night, found the ball shortly off the draw, circled behind the net, maneuvered in front and fired a lefty dagger into the low corner to send LCC into halftime with five unanswered goals and a 7-3 advantage.
Etheridge gave the home team its biggest margin of the night, one-timing a beautiful over-the-top pass from Lexie Likins less than two minutes into the second session. That seemed to wake Torrey Pines up and the Falcons scored three unanswered goals, two by Cal-bound junior Kate Rothman, and with still more than 15 minutes to work were threatening to make it a fight.
But a huge, energy-stopping tally by Ari McLean and a follow up by freshman Casey DeHaan appeared to have restored order for LCC with under four minutes showing. But in reality, it was at this juncture that the real meaning of Belitz’s words started to take shape.
Finally sensing the urgency of the moment, Torrey Pines began playing like a team possessed and when junior Mia Kohn, a San Diego State recruit, connected from short range off a feed from behind the net at 2:51, it capped a three-goal, 42-second outburst that made the score, 10-9, and the verdict anything but certain.
La Costa Canyon survived the final 171 seconds to claim the win and hopefully generate some confidence for its five remaining regular season games and the CIF Playoffs, which look to be more wide open than usual. Although one of these two teams has captured the last 12 CIF championships (LCC-7 / TP-5), nobody had to remind Belitz and her crew that the last three section crowns belong to the Falcons and La Costa Canyon came into the night having dropped seven of its last eight meetings with it’s No. 1 adversary. There was no mistaking that this was more than an ordinary win for the Mavs.
“Tonight, you could tell neither team had its best game but I’m so proud of the way my team played,” said Belitz afterward. “They wanted it really bad and at the end of the day we pulled it out.
“We needed our seniors to do some big things and I felt like they did a nice job. All they wanted to do was beat Torrey Pines. Lexie Likins has had mononucleosis and she played the whole game.”
Sarah McLean led the Mavs with four goals, giving her a team best 39 on the season, Etheridge chipped in with three and was a force in the face-off circle while Gerraughty stopped six shots in the net. The speedy trio of Courtney Wayland (5 goals), Kohn (2) and Rothman (2) accounted for all of Torrey Pines scoring. While pleased with the final surge, Head Coach Kaitlin Doucette would have liked to have seen more where that came from.
“I wish they would have showed me that effort in the first 47 minutes,” said Doucette. “We made too many mistakes leading up to the comeback—not taking care of the ball, not winning possessions and playing nervous.
“We’re rebuilding, have a lot of new people and, honestly, they’re holding themselves back. We need to decide that we’re going to step up and finish games off and right now we’re not doing that. The pieces are there, just not the finishing. We’ve lost five one-goal games—we’re right there if we can take that last step.”