Fresh off the Adrenaline and Leverage box championships, the Los Angles Cobras took the field at the beautiful Hovley Sports Complex in the Palm Desert Lacrosse Classic.
First up for the U19 team was BUKU Lacrosse. Both teams looked like they were brushing off some rust in the opening minutes, trading goals in an ugly first half that at times resembled field hockey more than lacrosse. Tied 2-2, the Cobras came out in the second half playing much stronger and took a two-goal lead with five minutes left.
BUKU would not let up, though, and netted two of their own to tie it at the end of regulation, resulting in a full-field, one-on-one, overtime battle, with goalies, to determine the winner. Ryder Mora (soph., Loyola) stepped up to the Braveheart challenge, winning the faceoff and rushing downfield, beating his man on a split, roll-back dodge and getting his hands free to unleash a crank shot that unfortunately pinged iron.
BUKU’s long stick middie then had his chance but was denied by Mora’s defensive strip. Mora, now running on fumes, scooped the ball and pushed downfield, bulling his way to the cage, rolling back to his left and this time would not be denied, finding the back of the net for the golden-goal game winner!
Long Poles Troy Dixon (senior, Loyola), Nick Mohler (soph., Loyola), Ben Shugar (soph., Vistamar School) and the “Canadian Connection” Seth McDermott (senior, St. Francis Xavier, Edmonton) played stellar “D” in front of keeper John Chandler (senior, Westview, San Diego), giving up only one goal over the next two games. With the offense pouring in a combined 24 goals in those games, the Cobras walked into the final pool-play game with a head-to-head match against the San Clemente Wave for the top seed in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Cobras, the Wave came out on fire, sniping three early goals and never taking their foot off the gas. The Cobras looked frustrated and started playing “me” ball instead of “team” ball, with individuals trying to do too much. The final was 7-3, and the Cobras would settle for the No. 2 seed, setting up a semifinal showdown against Coastal Lax.
Both Coastal and the Cobras came out aggressive, knowing that it was now loser-goes-home. The teams matched each other’s goals throughout the game, fought hard for every GB, and scrapped on defense. Harrison Mac (senior, Loyola) sniped a high-to-high laser top left cheese but went down with an injury. The captain and heart and soul of the Cobras was helped off the field and would not return. Second line midfielder, Hayden Frye (junior, Mira Costa) knew he had to step it up, and step it up he did. In the final seconds Frye ran downfield, beat his man down the right ally and zipped a great home-run pass cross crease to Kaidon Newberry (senior, Yorba Linda). The ball was deflected and hit the outside of Newberry’s stick, off his knee and rainbowed in over the goalie for the game winner as time expired.
The highlight goal set up the Cobras for a revenge rematch against the San Clemente Wave in the final game. Without Mac, it was imperative for the Cobras to play team ball and control possession time against the high-powered offense of the Wave. Cobra’s faceoff unit of Max Neblina (junior, Loyola), Jack Dixon (senior, Loyola) and Jacob De La Hoya (soph., St. Francis) were instrumental in the ball control, scooping up nearly every ground ball to give the offense extra opportunities.
John Parducci (senior, Loyola) started it off with a right-to-left split that resembled an Allen Iverson crossover. Bursting out of the split, Parducci roped a high-to-low lefty shot, drawing first blood. Again, the faceoff unit won another ground ball. This time, the second midfield unit stepped up as Noah Gervasi (soph. West Ranch) bull-dodged down the right alley and blasted a high-to-low bouncer, stinging upper 90.
With the Cobra fans going bananas, the Wave was forced to use a timeout. Like any championship, this was a game of runs, and the Wave had theirs as they buckled down on defense and made key stops to get the ball on their offense side. Goalie Chandler fought off shot after shot, but the Wave were able to put in two to tie it at the half and one more early in the second half take their first lead.
Again, though, the Cobras’ second-line middies came up big. Nate Mohler (senior, Loyola) drove the cage, feeding Cory Lund (soph., El Segundo) to tie it again. Lund struck again, isolating his man from the corner and driving top side, pulling off a smooth inside roll to dunk the go-ahead goal.
The Wave again attacked, but the Cobras defense was up for the challenge and held them scoreless on a long offensive possession. The Cobras finally cleared and again brought it down to Lund, who seemed to have the hot hand. Lund had a sweet change of direction from X, drawing a quick slide and dishing it to a wide-open Parducci, but his shot was deflected. In the right place at the right time, Mason O’Hanlon (soph., Loyola) got the rebound and dunked an awareness goal that would prove to be the game winner. The Wave would score one more, but Max Neblina and company would win yet another faceoff, and the attack of JP Hatch (junior, Loyola), Parker Furlong (soph., Santa Monica) and Garret Smith would control the ball and kill the clock to secure the championship win.
MVP honors would go to long stick middie Neblina for going 80 percent at the faceoff X, with a tip of the cap to Dixon and De La Hoya for excellent wing play.
Congratulations to the Los Angles Cobras, Palm Desert Lacrosse Classic 2014 U19 Champs!
Photo courtesy Matt Holman, Palm Desert Lacrosse Classic; text courtesy Brett Tietjen, LA Cobras.