Injuries halt team’s early momentum

Injuries halt team’s early momentum

Attacker Owen Hudgins '21 maneuvers around a defender in a 13-3 victory over Oak Park on March 15. Photo Credit: Lauren Nehorai

The boys’ lacrosse team finished the season with an 11-8 overall record, five fewer wins than last year, which players attributed to fatigue and intense pressure.

The team lost 14-2 to Loyola in the Mission League Championship on April 26 and 8-4 to Palos Verdes in the LA Semifinals on May 5.

Palos Verdes is a well-balanced team that plays that follows a system without a few really dominant players, as the Wolverines have, players said.

“All [their players] have the capability to shoot, and they move the ball really fast,” attacker Asher Early ’19 said. “They were moving the ball faster than we’d seen before, and as a result got a lot of shots.”

The Wolverines started off the game behind. As a result, they felt rushed to get a shot off, and that led to early fatigue, players said.

Due to injuries to a few key players this season, the team was forced to rely on a few key players, midfielder Harrison Listen ’19 said, who suffered a concussion and missed a month of the season himself. Jared Goldman ’18 suffered an ACL tear, and Sultan Daniels ’19 also missed multiple games due to a concussion. Listen specifically cited Brody Listen ’21, Owen Hudgins ’21 and Nik Grube ’21, the three freshmen on varsity, as those who stepped up to fill the void.

“Dealing with lack of numbers forced some of the younger guys to step up, and I think they did a really strong job of it,” Listen said. “[The injuries] allowed our team to build chemistry in a deeper way because everyone was having to rely on each other. It showed our toughness of our team and the grit, and I’m proud of the way we handled the adversity.”

In addition to injury issues, players said the team also had a lower record than last year’s 16-2 because they played more talented teams.

“If we played the same teams as we did last season, our record would have looked a lot like it did last season,” Early said. “The fact of the matter is this year, we’re challenging ourselves. We’re playing a lot of out-of-league teams and out-of-LA teams.”

The group will lose a few important upperclassmen, specifically Paul Rodriguez ’19, who led the team in goals, tallying close to 50 on the season. The team has relied on a few players to score a large portion of its goals this year, including Early and Rodriguez. This is because by the middle of the season, most of the plays they have used all season are well-known by other teams, Early said.

“We tended to fall back on our key guys as a safety net a little bit more than we could have,” Early said. “I think it would’ve been more beneficial to build the confidence of everyone as a role player on the team.”

Possibly the toughest thing about lacrosse season at the school is that it ends in fourth quarter, when there are a lot of tests and AP exams take place and history term papers are due, according to Early.

“It’s super hard to focus on lacrosse when you have papers and tests every day,” Early said. “I definitely think that affected all the juniors. We were definitely a little distracted because of that.”

This is a competitive disadvantage to other schools, players say, because Harvard-Westlake students usually have the heaviest workload.

“Going to practice can feel more like a job than a fun thing,” Early said. “While you’re in practice, you’re there for like three hours, but meanwhile you’re focusing on the term paper you have due in a few days. It’s kind of hard to succeed that way. I think [lack of sleep] definitely affects how we played and the energy we brought.”

To address the issue, the team has discussed Monday meetings to go over the general workload for the week, as well as possibly tweaking the practice schedule to accommodate, so as to avoid kids falling asleep while watching film or working on the bus to games instead of focusing on the game.

Despite some adversity this season, players identified one tournament as a time of bonding. In January, the team played in a tournament in Palm Springs. All players bussed there as a team, and it was a time of great camaraderie, players said.

“We had some losses and some wins in the tournament, but we got to spend the time together,” Listen said. “I think that really formed the relationships for the rest of the season and gave us a taste of what we’d need to do coming forward.”

Despite the lower record this year, players still want to have a difficult schedule next year to continue to push themselves.

“Last year, we were a big fish in a small pond, but we want to be a big fish in a big pond,” Early said. “This is what the next level of high school lacrosse is.”

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