Counting It Down: Teams 20 to 16

The start of the 2015 season is less than two weeks away, so it’s about time MaxLaxLA.com started counting down the preseason Top 20 teams in the L.A. area.

This countdown is based in part on a poll of area coaches conducted over the last week with a bit of our own editorial discretion added to spice things up. The official preseason coaches’ poll will be released next week.

Here’s a brief look the first five teams in our Top 20 Countdown:

20. Cate (7-6)

After a 5-2 start that included a 15-3 win over rival Thacher School, the Rams needed to beat Thacher again — this time only 4-3 — in the last game of the season to finish above .500. But two seasons ago, this was a playoff team. This season, Cate will be breaking in a new coach in Philip Keebler, who coached the Oregon Ducks in the MCLA in 2012-13 and previously coached at Carmel High School. He replaces Andrew MacDonnell, who led the Rams for five seasons.

19. West Ranch (11-4)

The Wildcats made great strides in their second season as a full-fledged CIF program in 2014, improving from a 6-9 debut-season record in 2013 to 11-4 and a playoff berth last spring. But senior middie JK Torres carried the bulk of the offensive load last spring, and he has moved on to NCAA D-III Aurora University. Now, West Ranch will look to its attack line, with guys like senior Garrett Clark, junior Austin Pina and sophomores Robert Wilcox (22 goals as a freshman) and Teo Domic expected to spark the offense.

18. Palisades (11-7)

In 2012, the Dolphins reached the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section L.A. Division title game, losing to Palos Verdes. The next year, they went 14-6 and again made the playoffs, losing in the first round to No. 2 seed Westlake. Under new coach Bryan Cuthbert last season, Palisades struggled to a 2-4 start against a tough schedule (losses to Harvard Westlake, Peninsula and Crespi) before rallying to finish strong and again reach the playoffs. Look for Cuthbert and the Dolphins to take another step forward and again contend for a playoff berth.

Austin Bleibtreu, Brentwood
Senior attack Austin Bleibtreu returns to lead Brentwood.

17. Brentwood (3-10)

The Eagles have a new coach and a new league heading into 2015, with Skyler Hopkins replacing J.D. Lopez and the program shifting out the Mission League and into the newly formed Gold Coast League (with Malibu, Sierra Canyon and Viewpoint). Hopkins has at least one big weapon returning in senior attack Austin Bleibtreu, who was named second-team All-Mission League last season.

16. Chaminade (9-10)

The Eagles made quite a turnaround in coach Steve Lane‘s second season last spring, and with an experienced roster returning could be poised to contend for a playoff berth — though the always-tough Mission League won’t make that easy. Behind senior attacks Matthew Dauw and Cameron Yerzyk and junior middies Ryan Oaks and Mark Galanti, the offense should be solid, and junior goalie Peter Manfredonia also returns for his second year as a starter.

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