Wolverines suffer tough overtime loss to unbeaten Peninsula

Cole Jacobson

For the second time in three days, the varsity lacrosse team faced a Bay League foe that it had eliminated from the 2013 CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoff bracket.

For the second time in three days, the Wolverines came up empty-handed.

Returning first-team Bay League selection Brandon Wilson ’15 connected on his fourth and final goal with 52.8 seconds remaining in overtime, allowing the Panthers (7-0 overall, 0-0 in Bay League) to remain undefeated with a 10-9 road victory over Harvard-Westlake on Friday night.

The Wolverines were playing tremendously short-handed on the offensive side of the ball — three of the team’s top eight scorers were inactive in Roman Holthouse ’15, Paul Rodriguez ’18 and Jared Goldman ’18 — and it showed early in Friday’s game. Behind solid work from goalie Lance Plonski ’15 and two early goals from Colby University commit Colton Michel ’15, Peninsula (ranked fifth in the most recent MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll) jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead, as Harvard-Westlake seemed set for another blowout loss following Wednesday’s 11-goal defeat to Palos Verdes.

Joe Woody ’15 had other plans.

The senior midfielder, committed to Kenyon University, stepped up with two goals in the final three minutes of the quarter to cut the deficit to one goal after 12 minutes, letting the Panthers know that escaping Studio City with a win wouldn’t be easy.

In the second period, Wolverine goalie Troy Hattler ’17 somewhat struggled to contain the outside shooting of Michel and Wilson, but the defense of Andrew Park ’15 combined with some vastly improved ball movement on offense kept Harvard-Westlake (ranked sixth in the same coaches’ poll) in contention. Even though Michel and Wilson both had first-half hat tricks, two goals from Andrew Corlin ’15 kept the score at 7-6 Peninsula at the break.

The Wolverines scored in the first eight seconds of the next half due to a Phillip Thompson ’16 faceoff win leading to Corlin’s third goal, but it was all defense from there for both teams. Hattler and Plonski both astonished the crowd with a series of remarkable saves. Woody scored two of his four goals in the third quarter to briefly get Harvard-Westlake the lead, but Michel came right back with his fourth of the night, tying the game at 9 apiece entering the fourth and setting the stage for an epic conclusion to the heated non-league game.

Hattler — making his return to the starting lineup after suffering a chest injury in Wednesday’s loss — played his part perfectly.

Even though the Panthers dominated time of possession in the fourth quarter, the sophomore goalie came up with a staggering five saves in the period, keeping the game tied despite the Panthers’ barrage of shots. When Hattler stopped a desperation 25-yard heave at the regulation buzzer, the game was headed to overtime, as both teams needed to strap it up again for four more minutes of action.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the wall had to break down eventually.

Thompson won the opening faceoff of the overtime period, but turned the ball soon after, as Peninsula took a possession that it wouldn’t release for the rest of the game. Because of unique lacrosse rules, in which possession after an out-of-bounds shot goes to whichever team had the player nearest to the ball, the Panthers were able to maintain the ball for nearly three full minutes. Thus, even after several misses, Michel eventually found an open Wilson near the crease, who converted from point-blank range to seal the win and stun the Wolverines on their home field.

Harvard-Westlake drops to 4-3 overall and remains 1-1 in Mission League play, and has to recover quickly from Friday’s heartbreaking loss. The Wolverines are next in action against St. Francis (3-4 overall, 0-3 in Mission League), which is in its first season in the Mission League after being an independent team for its first two varsity seasons. The Golden Knights have never played Harvard-Westlake, and are currently ranked 20th in the Northern Division on LaxPower’s computer rankings, while the Wolverines are ranked 11th on the same website.