It was senior night in downtown Los Angeles Friday for the fourth-ranked Loyola Cubs, and the boys in white and blue defended their turf in a 12-5 nonleague win over sixth-ranked Westlake at Loyola High School.
Both teams came in hot, but something had to give. It turned out to be the Warriors’ five-game win streak, as the Cubs notched their fifth win in a row. This is a critical stretch for three-time defending Southern Section champion Loyola (9-4) as it aims to defend its Mission League tournament starting Wednesday, then carry momentum into the LA Championship Tournament.
“It adds a certain specialness to it, especially with how strong the Mission League is right now,” Cubs coach Seth Cohen said. “It sort of is an actual precursor to the actual playoffs. I mean, it’s going to have implications in terms of seeding, and we like it.”
Loyola enters the league playoffs as the No. 2 seed, having lost its regular season matchup to Harvard Westlake. That was the Cubs’ fourth loss in a row and followed back-to-back-to-back losses to regionally ranked teams Torrey Pines, St. Ignatius and St. Margaret’s in the span of a week.
But Loyola hasn’t lost since.
Friday, the Cubs scored within the first 20 seconds of the game off a beautiful pass from Aidan LaBella (2a) to TC Pettit (1g). The Warriors (8-4), responded a few minutes later with a nice shot by CJ Woodall (1g) to even up a strong defensive effort by both sides to start the game. Owen Gaffney (1g, 1a) scored with a minute left in the first quarter off a feed from Alex Horowitz (3g, 2a) to give the Cubs the lead at 2-1, and they didn’t look back.
After an early second quarter goal from Horowitz, Loyola capitalized on a two-minute man advantage to score twice, one from Horowitz and the other from Matt Garvey (3g, 1a) — two of the Cubs’ brightest stars on offense Friday. This jumpstarted them on a 6-2 run that gave the home squad an 8-3 lead at half.
“Whether it’s man-up or even, we’re still trying to do the same things,” Cohen said. “We were able to move it pretty nicely and find some good looks.”
After a solid first half from starting goalie Will Parducci (4 saves), senior Cam Bieler came on in the second half and put on a memorable, and emotional, senior night performance with eight saves and two goals allowed. Not many programs have the luxury of having two starting-caliber goalies.
“Both the goalies were fantastic,” Cohen said. “We’re super fortunate to have them. It’s rare you can put your backup goalie in with complete and total confidence. On any other team, [Bieler] would be a starting goalie. I mean, he’s fantastic. He had a great game [Friday], playing well whenever he gets his moments in there. [Parducci] is great; he’s got great legs. But both goalies are fantastic.”
Jack Carolan (3g, 2a) was another key contributor for the Cubs on offense, scoring two of Loyola’s four goals in the second half. Balance on offense has been a plus for Loyola of late, and Friday’s win was another example with the Cubs recording assists on seven of their 12 goals.
After scoring in double digits in each of their five consecutive victories, the Warriors struggled to score against the Loyola goalies. Carson Kuhl (2g, 1a) and Tyler Enderle (2g, 1a) led the Westlake offense.
Before its Mission League semifinal at home Wednesday, Loyola will play host to defending Washington 4-A champion Eastlake (Sammamish, Wash.) on Monday.
Westlake will look to get back on track and earn its sixth win in seven games Wednesday in a Marmonte League matchup at No. 16 Newbury Park (7-8, 2-3).