Second-seed Loyola went on a 7-0 run from the end of the third quarter through the entire fourth to overpower top-seeded Palos Verdes 12-6 and claim its fourth consecutive LA City Championship at Westlake High School on Wednesday.
The Cubs (15-7) continued to build on their LA dynasty, defeating Palos Verdes (19-3) in the title game for the fourth year in a row and tying the Sea Kings for the most city championships with five apiece.
Saturday, Loyola will try to make it four Southern Section championships in a row when it takes on St. Margaret’s at Mira Costa HS (1 p.m.). The Tartans beat Foothill 17-10 to claim their second consecutive Orange County title.
“We feel pretty dialed in with the program right now and what we do to prepare every week,” Cubs coach Seth Cohen said. “We get new players in (every year), and they buy in to what we’re selling, and that’s a real treat to coach players that want to work hard and buy in.”
After a 2019 regular season that saw its ups and downs in certain stretches, Loyola proved its resiliency.
“We put together a really tough schedule for ourselves in the beginning of the year,” Cohen said, “and we knew it was going to be a really big challenge for us. We put them on there hoping we would win, but more than anything I just wanted to challenge us to make us better and see that top-level competition. We lost some of those games, and people wrote us off and doubted us, but we believed in ourselves, and we just knew we had to be playing our best ball at the end of the year.”
Loyola got off to a fast start in the first quarter, scoring three unanswered before a last-second goal from PV’s Ryan Wilson (2g, 1a). Alex Horowitz (2g, 1a) and Jack Carolan (4g, 1a) scored the Cubs’ three goals, and helped their squad to a 3-1 lead after one.
The Sea Kings picked it up in the second quarter and were able to keep better pace with the Cubs, getting goals from Luc Charbonnier (1g), Neil Randall (1g) and Smith. Loyola kept pace with goals from Speed Fry (1g, 1a) and Owen Gaffney (3g, 3a) and took a 5-4 lead into the half.
Palos Verdes tied the game at five with 7:18 remaining in the third off an unassisted goal from Brad Sharp (2g, 1a) and quickly followed with their first lead of the game off a well-placed pass from Birk Swan (1a) to Sharp with 4:51 left in the quarter.
Then the Cubs made their move.
Gaffney and Speed Fry scored in the final three and a half minutes to push Loyola ahead 7-6 heading into the fourth. In what looked to originally be another classic game between the two best programs in Los Angeles, the Cubs went hunting.
Loyola frustrated the Sea Kings at both ends of the field, and the Cubs’ defense quickly turned into offense. Horowitz scored an early goal to make it 8-6, and then the momentum built. Carolan scored two in a row, one off an assist from Preston Barnes (1a) was followed by unassisted goals from Trey Mora (1g) and Gaffney gave the Cubs their crown.
“I wasn’t expecting to get that many goals, but once I started going off I couldn’t stop,” Carolan said.
Senior Cam Bieler, who only recently took over the starting goalie job, was dominant in the cage once again for Loyola with nine saves, seven in the first half.
Contrary to Loyola’s 15-8 loss to Palos Verdes last month, the face-off battle was pretty even between PV’s Cole Clinton and Loyola’s Matt Gottfried with Clinton holding a slim 12 out of 22 advantage.
“[Gottfried] did a hell of a job for us at the dot, and it was a huge difference,” Cohen said. “We really struggled at the dot in the last game (against PV), and it was a difference-maker for us, so I thought he did a fantastic job.”
For Palos Verdes, which held LA’s top ranking for most of the season, the season ended in all-too-familiar fashion, and the mood was understandably somber afterward. Coach Jimmy Borell placed all of the blame on his shoulders.
“[Loyola] outworked us, they out-coached us, they did a great job on ground balls, and we just couldn’t get in the swing of things, just couldn’t get in a grove,” he said, “and that’s 100 percent my fault. Our kids battled, which I love. They fought their hardest, and our seniors did too. Again, it’s all on me. I didn’t prepare us well enough.”