It’s been two long years since the upstart Harvard-Westlake varsity lacrosse team stunned the top-seeded Palos Verdes squad in the championship game of the 2013 CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoff bracket.
In the first rematch since then, the Sea Kings made sure that revenge was sweet.
Reigning LaxPower High School All-American and Hobart University commit Stan Gilbertson ’15 had five goals, fellow 2014 All-American and Duke University commit goalie David McCann ’14 pitched a nearly perfect game, and Palos Verdes (3-1 overall, 0-0 in Bay League) dominated the Wolverines 13-2 on Wednesday night at Ted Slavin Field.
Harvard-Westlake, ranked sixth in Los Angeles County in the most recent MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll, stayed in the game early. Although the Palos Verdes defensive front was not giving many opportunities to the Wolverines, Troy Hattler ’17 came up with some big saves for Harvard-Westlake and defender Andrew Park ’15 forced two turnovers in the opening period as well. Gilbertson was able to score once in the first frame, but that was all for PV, as Harvard-Westlake was within only one goal at the end of the quarter.
However, things started to unravel for the Wolverines from there. Attempting to avoid the late-game difficulties that the team suffered in a 16-10 loss to Loyola, Head Coach Alex Weber started to use a larger rotation, playing midfielders Alex Corlin ’15 and Zac Harleston ’17 and defender Marco Marenzi ’17 more often than before. While the new tactic led to more rest for some Wolverine starters, Palos Verdes (ranked second in the coaches’ poll) was still able to build on their lead.
Strong man-to-man defense, combined with a series of great saves from McCann (who finished with 14 on the night), kept the Wolverine offense at bay; the team hadn’t been held to less goals in a full game since March 2008 (also against Palos Verdes). As Rizal Smith ’16 began to get involved for the Sea Kings’ offense, PV took a 5-0 lead into the halftime break, and the team continued to dominate early in the second half.
After allowing a few goals early in the third quarter, which stretched the Sea Kings’ lead to 8-0, Hattler was removed from the game in favor of Lucas Perez ’16. Hattler had been initially injured on a chest-save in the first quarter, and was icing the area later in the game, although it was unclear if he would’ve been able to continue playing if the score had been closer. Perez had three saves in his limited time, but wasn’t able to completely contain the Sea King attack, as their lead got as large 11-0 in the fourth quarter.
With the game out of reach, the Wolverines showed some fight — Oliver Levitt ’15 had a pair of fourth quarter assists on goals from Roman Holthouse ’15 and Phillip Thompson ’16 — but the efforts were in vain by that point. As some starters began to exit the game for both teams, the PV lead never got to single digits, as the Sea Kings closed out a 13-2 win to emphatically get vengeance on their old playoff foes.
Harvard-Westlake drops to 4-2 overall and remains 1-1 in Mission League play, and will get to test themselves against a Bay League foe for the second consecutive game. Next up for the Wolverines is Palos Verdes’ neighboring school, Palos Verdes Peninsula (6-0 overall, 0-0 in Bay League), which is currently ranked in fifth place in the MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll. The last time these two teams met was in Peninsula’s 2014 season opener, when they were bested by the Wolverines by a score of 11-9. This year’s matchup will take place on Friday at 5:45 p.m., at Ted Slavin Field.