Wolverines fall to nationally ranked Corona Del Mar

Cole Jacobson

Entering Tuesday night’s game against Corona Del Mar — the highest ranked squad in the western half of the United States according to LaxPower’s computer rankings — on a three-game winning streak, the varsity lacrosse team certainly had some swagger building as the end of the regular season neared.

Despite an eventual loss, it’s fair to say that the Wolverines still have some momentum going their way.

Harvard-Westlake trailed by double digits at the halftime break, but closed the game on an impressive 4-0 fourth quarter run, turning what was an apparent blowout into a respectable 15-8 loss to Sea Kings (15-0 overall, independent) and ending the night in a positive manner.

Corona Del Mar — ranked first in the CIF Southern Section and 24th in the entire United States by LaxPower — was unquestionably the heavy favorite going into the night, but a passionate defensive effort kept the Wolverines alive initially. Andrew Park ’15 and Niko Econn ’17 led a fierce Harvard-Westlake team that limited the Sea Kings (who have only been held to single-digit scoring three times in 2015) offensively, and a Phil Thompson ’16 assist to Oliver Levitt ’15 had the game tied at 1 apiece seven minutes into the game.

However, the Sea Kings were unfazed by their slow start, and began to prove worthy of their elite national ranking.

Corona Del Mar’s depth and ball movement began to become prominent later in the first half, as the Sea Kings overwhelmed Harvard-Westlake (ranked 13th in the Southern Section by LaxPower) by closing the half on an 11-0 run. Corona Del Mar’s stifling defense, which had only allowed 34 total goals in their previous 14 games, began to force several sloppy Harvard-Westlake turnovers, as goalie Troy Hattler ’17 struggled to clear the ball out of the Wolverines’ half of the field. As the thin Wolverine roster got worn down, and the Sea Kings continued to dominate face-offs, their lead continued to rapidly grow. Led by midfielders Stephen Von Der Ahe ’16 and Sherwin Gersten ’15, their run culminated in an 8-0 second quarter edge and a 12-1 halftime lead.

Still, with the game mostly out of question, the Harvard-Westlake squad kept fighting, ensuring that the school’s “Senior Night” game wouldn’t go to complete waste. Thompson began to find his notorious groove on face-offs once again, finally allowing the potent Wolverine offense to get some possession. The squad produced with goals from Aaron Drooks ’15, Tommy Park ’18 and Roman Holthouse ’15, which put the squad behind 14-4 entering the last frame.

After Corona Del Mar midfielder Nate Neumann ’15 scored his second goal to stretch the lead back to 11, the Sea Kings began to sprinkle in a few substitutes, helping the Wolverines get back on track to finish the game strongly. Holthouse, who recently became the all-time leading career goal scorer in Harvard-Westlake history, made sure to end his final regular season game on Ted Slavin Field on a good note, scoring three goals in the fourth quarter alone to lead the Wolverines’ charge at the end of the evening. With the final 15-8 margin, the Wolverines had been closer than all but three of Corona Del Mar’s 2015 opponents (La Costa Canyon of San Diego, and O.C. squads JSerra and St. Margaret’s).

Harvard-Westlake falls to 10-6 overall and remains 5-2 in Mission League play, with their playoff status still intact as the second place team from the Mission League. The squad will next be in action against rival Loyola (13-3 overall, 7-0 in league) in a battle between the league’s top two teams. Harvard-Westlake (ranked sixth in the MaxLaxLA coaches’ poll) led 9-7 at the half in the first matchup on March 10th, but eventually fell to the Cubs (ranked second by MaxLaxLA) 16-10 at home. Even though the game will have no impact on league standings, it can adjust the playoff seedings, as Harvard-Westlake would be essentially assured of a top-five seed with a win. The game will take place at Loyola High School on Thursday at 4 p.m.