How quickly we forget. The storyline going into Saturday’s US Lacrosse Southern Division Championship game was that the Harvard-Westlake School Wolverines were a Cinderella team. The Wolverines entered the Northern Division playoffs as the sixth seed and emerged as the 2013 Northern Division Champs after knocking off #2 seed Westlake High School and #1 seed Palos Verdes High School. After such an improbable and successful playoff run, the Wolverines certainly earned the moniker Cinderella team. What we all forgot though is that there were two Cinderella teams competing at West High School in Torrance on Saturday afternoon.
Does anyone remember that this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Saint Margaret’s Episcopal School Tartans? Less than three months ago, the Tartans were ranked 7th to start the season and slipped to as low as number 10 when they started the season 1-3. They seemed like the Rodney Dangerfields of OC lacrosse; they weren’t getting no respect. And why would they? The team had no depth. The first string goalie was playing defense. The second string goalie was playing first string goalie. The attack consisted of Chase what’s his name?, Alex who?, and Ryan Harnisch’s little brother. All-County Denver-bound LSM Scott McGowan was limping. And on and on it went.
While most of us thought that the Tartans were a long term project that would take a season or two to complete, the coaches and players had a different idea. They were working on an accelerated schedule. Instead of making excuses (and no one would have blamed them if they did), they went to work. And in the process, standout goalie Brandon Suchand become a standout defenseman. Austin Birch showed the world that he is no second stringer. Chase Williams, Alex Waller, and Sam Harnisch become the most cohesive and most dangerous attack unit in the OC. Ryan Harnisch did his thing at the X. Scott McGowan became a dominating force. Hunter Edington and Josh Davis opened up the the opponents’ defenses with long-range scoring. Youngsters like Fernando Delgado, John Connelly, Nick Shanks and Mike McGraw became standouts in their own rights, and this team gelled and operated as effectively and efficiently as any team in the OC ever has.
On Saturday, the Tartans won their 18th straight game and the battle of the Cinderellas 18-7 in a game that was a metaphor for their season. The Tartans started out slowly leading 2-1 at the first quarter and trailing 5-2 at the half. The naysayers were beginning to find their voices again. And then the earthquake began to rumble in the third quarter as the Tartans outscored the Wolverines 6-2 to take an 8-7 lead. By the fourth quarter the tsunami alerts were sounding and the Wolverines could only run for the high ground as the Tartans scored 7 goals in the final 12 minute frame to win their first Southern Division Championship 15-8. Party on at the ball boys!! I am thinking you may be ranked higher than #7 to start 2014.