Fourth quarter comeback falls short, Wolverines eliminated in quarterfinals

Cole Jacobson

It had been two years and three days since then-sophomore Roman Holthouse ’15 scored an overtime goal to stun Westlake High School 11-10 in a 2013 US Lacrosse Northern Division semifinal showdown.

In the teams’ first matchup since then, the Warriors wasted no time getting revenge.

Despite finishing the game on a 6-0 run, the varsity lacrosse team was unable to make up a massive early deficit on #5 seed Westlake (16-1 overall, 7-1 in Marmonte League), falling to the Warriors 16-11 on Thursday night and exiting the playoffs in the divisional quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Even though Westlake had no days of rest after their first-round win over Redondo Union, they came out with a bang against #4 seed Harvard-Westlake, nearly putting the game away in the opening minutes. The Warriors led 6-0 after one quarter, and built the lead up to 11-4 entering the half behind Cornell commit Conor O’Brien’s ’15 four goals. Westlake continued to physically dominate the Wolverines early in the second half, stretching the lead to 14-4 with only 16 minutes remaining in the game.

Harvard-Westlake showed a spark of life when Andrew Park ’15 came up with a steal and found all-time Wolverine leading goal scorer Holthouse for a goal to cut the lead to 14-5. However, the Wolverines caught another tough break as Holthouse went down with a knee injury and turned the ball over on the team’s next offensive possession. Westlake scored to put the lead back to double digits entering the fourth quarter, and Holthouse was out for the remainder of the contest, suggesting that the Warriors had put this one away for good.

University of North Carolina commit Jesse Cuccia ’15 added his third goal for the Warriors early in the fourth, as Westlake’s lead got as large as 16-5 with 10 minutes remaining, but the Wolverines showed no quit in the final moments of their season.

Toby Spain ’16 spun around Cuccia and found Ian Watts ’16 inside for a goal, starting the run by bringing the deficit back to 10 goals with 7:10 to go.

From there, with Holthouse still unable to return to action, it was Phillip Thompson’s ’16 time to take over.

Thompson won the ensuing face-off, drove inside, and found Tommy Park ’18 for a goal on the team’s next possession. The Princeton University commit scored on a phenomenal leaping shot through two defenders to cut the lead to 16-8, and then had another assist to Park which brought the score to 16-9 with 4:50 remaining.

Westlake called timeout at this point to try to stop the Wolverines’ momentum, but Thompson (who won a staggering 25 of 31 face-offs) was still there to put the team on his back. Warrior goalie Matthew Kilkeary ’17 began to cool the Harvard-Westlake offense with a few great saves, but Thompson refused to be stopped for long, scoring two more times in the next four minutes to bring the Wolverines within five goals.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines, there simply wasn’t enough time for the team to come all the way back. Kilkeary, who had 11 saves in just the second half, killed a few key Harvard-Westlake offensive chances, and the time on the clock ran out before the Wolverines could complete their miracle.

Harvard-Westlake finished the season at 11-8 overall and 5-3 in Mission League play, with their second straight Northern Division quarterfinal exit. Seven seniors will be departing to graduation, including Holthouse, A. Park and Kenyon commit Joe Woody ’15, but there will still be a hearth of young talent returning in 2016. In total, five of 10 starters will come back next season: goalie Troy Hattler ’17, defenders Niko Econn ’17 and Shane Houska ’17, midfielder Thompson, and attackman T. Park. Furthermore, five more freshmen suited up on varsity at some point this season, including Paul Rodriguez ’18, Jared Goldman ’18, Lex Torrington ’18, Simon Pompan ’18 and Nick Tatham ’18.

A recap of the game by MaxLaxLA can be seen here: