Lacrosse falters late, drops league opener to rival Loyola

With a first-half hat trick from freshman attackman Paul Rodriguez ’18 and a three-goal lead late in the second quarter, the varsity lacrosse team looked primed to upset second-ranked Loyola (according to the MaxLaxLA Coaches’ Poll) and continue its unbeaten start with a big-time rivalry win.

Loyola’s Sean Smith ’16 had other plans.

The returning first-team Mission League attackman catalyzed a 6-0 fourth quarter run with three assists and a goal in the final period, carrying his team (4-0 overall, 1-0 in Mission League) to a 16-10 road win over #3 Harvard-Westlake on Tuesday evening in the league opener for both teams.

Loyola jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead behind good work from fellow 2014 first-team all-leaguer goalie Joe Theuer ’17, but the rest of the first half was all Harvard-Westlake. Strong defense from Shane Houska ’17 and two quick goals from Rodriguez spurred a quick 4-0 run for the Wolverines to take a two-goal lead, and a highlight-reel diving goal from Roman Holthouse ’15 enabled the Wolverines to keep a 5-4 lead after one quarter.

Harvard-Westlake’s momentum only grew from there. In a dominant two-minute stretch early in the second quarter, the Wolverines maintained possession thanks to strong faceoff work from Princeton commit Phillip Thompson ’16, and the offense took advantage; the team got a quick three goals from Rodriguez, Holthouse, and Rodriguez again to stretch the lead to as large as 8-5. Loyola began to threaten near the end of the quarter, but a few clutch saves from first-year starting goalie Troy Hattler ’17 kept the Wolverines up 9-7 entering the half.

In the third period, Holthouse scored his third goal of the night to put the Wolverines up 10-8, but that was unfortunately it for the offense’s production on the night. Rodriguez missed the final 21 minutes of the game with hamstring cramps, and the Cub defense began to force several turnovers as Loyola cut into the lead, as they tied the game at 10 apiece entering the fourth despite Hattler’s efforts.

Unfortunately for Harvard-Westlake, the Cubs’ depth advantage became noticeable in the fourth frame. Only four players scored on the night for the Wolverines in Joe Woody ’15 (two goals), Levitt (two goals), Holthouse and Rodriguez, and there was simply too much production from Smith and Harrison Mac ’15 for Harvard-Westlake to keep up. The Cubs dominated time of possession in the fourth period and started to have more success on Hattler, scoring five goals in the first six minutes of the quarter, as they closed out a six-goal rivalry win with their late game dominance.

Harvard-Westlake drops to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in Mission League play, and will next be in action against Oaks Christian (1-1 overall, independent) on Friday on the road at seven p.m. The Lions are currently ranked #15 in the MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll, and lost to Harvard-Westlake by a score of 12-11 in their lone meeting last season.

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