Despite going 0-2 in the final week of the regular season, the varsity lacrosse team’s strength of schedule was strong enough to impress the US Lacrosse Southern Section Northern Division seeding committee, as the Wolverines received the fourth seed in the 16-team playoff bracket released Sunday morning. Harvard-Westlake will face a familiar foe in the first round in 13th seed Chaminade, whom the Wolverines swept in two Mission League games during the 2014-15 season.
Harvard-Westlake, which finished the regular season 10-7 overall and 5-3 in Mission League play, was ranked sixth in the April 27 MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll, and proceeded to lose its final two games to Orange County powerhouse Corona Del Mar (by a score of 15-8) and Mission League champion Loyola (15-14). However, because of the quality of these two opponents, combined with the Marmonte League results that included both Westlake and Thousand Oaks losing in the final week of the regular season, the Wolverines were able to jump two slots in the rankings and obtain the fourth seed in the bracket.
Since lacrosse does not yet have the required amount of participating schools for the CIF Southern Section to hold an official playoff tournament — 20% of the CIF-SS member schools are needed, and only 79 schools in the Southern Section have varsity boys’ teams — the tournament is run by US Lacrosse instead. The playoff divisions are not sorted by school enrollment; the Southern Section is merely split into the Northern Division (informally known as the Los Angeles Division) and the Southern Division (informally known as the Orange County division).
Chaminade (9-9 overall, 2-6 in Mission League) finished fourth out of five teams in the Mission League, but snuck into the bracket’s last guaranteed slot (the 14th through 19th seeds all have play-in games on Monday) due to their rigorous schedule. All nine of their losses came to teams ranked in the top 15 of the May 3 MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll, and eight of the nine were against teams currently in the Northern Division playoff bracket.
The Eagles gave Harvard-Westlake a competitive game in their first matchup, only losing 10-8 on March 14, but the second showdown was a blowout of historic proportions. In an April 14 matchup televised by HWTV, the Wolverines jumped out to a 9-1 first quarter lead and ended up coasting to a comfortable 26-6 victory over the Eagles. In the process, school records were established for team scoring, team margin of victory, and individual scoring (Phillip Thompson ’16, with 10 goals).
If Harvard-Westlake advances past the Eagles in the first round, the team will be assured of hosting a second-round matchup as well due to its high seed, which would likely come against #5 seed Westlake High School (14-1, 7-1 in Marmonte League). In later rounds, the Wolverines could potentially see regular season rematches in the divisional semifinals (against #1 seed Palos Verdes, who topped Harvard-Westlake 13-2 on March 18) and the finals (Mission League foes #2 Loyola and #7 Crespi are amongst five teams on the other side of the bracket to have faced Harvard-Westlake during the regular season).
However, the team’s focus will remain on Chaminade for now, as the Wolverines look to get their first playoff win since being upset by Crespi in the 2014 divisional quarterfinals. Harvard-Westlake will host the Eagles on Tuesday, May 5, at 5:45 p.m. in the teams’ third and final meeting of the 2014-15 season. The winner will advance to the divisional quarterfinals, which will take place on May 7.
The full playoff brackets for both the L.A. and O.C. divisions can be seen here: