By most accounts, it was a program on the rocks. Exactly who was to blame for the demise of Mira Costa lacrosse was a matter of conjecture. But one thing was clear, the team that won back-to-back North division championships in 2010 and 2011 had become close to irrelevant.
Yet, as the Mustangs step into their second season under coach Aaron Karsh, things seem different. Not only is the team displaying a higher level of skill and athleticism but also a profoundly different attitude.
“Each guy on the team this year understands their role and are willing to embrace it,” Coach Karsh said.
“We have a sense of determination this year we didn’t have last year,” added junior co-captain Zane Crandall, “and a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.”
In last week’s scrimmage, the Mustangs were tied with a highly-touted Loyola before the starters were pulled during the fourth quarter. Wednesday, Mira Costa came out of the gates with a bang against Santa Monica.
The Mustangs won by a resounding 17-8 score and had contributions from every line. Crandall led the scoring with five points (2 goals, 3 assists), while senior Nick Coons netted an impressive four goals on just five shots. Hayden Frye and Casey Bonner also each had three points — the latter with a beautiful, circus-style backhand goal.
In total, 10 different Costa players scored goals, which speaks to the effectiveness of the offense implemented by Michael Faught, the first-year assistant coach. Faught, who still holds Harvard’s single-season goal-scoring record, has emphasized movement and unselfishness in the Costa attack.
While the Mustangs appeared to have both the plays and the skill to score at will against the Vikings, it was really their defense that made the biggest statement on this night. Starting with goalie John Van Sickle. A 2016 Drexel University verbal commit, Van Sickle has been stellar between the pipes since his return to Costa. After giving up the first goal of the game, he was all but impenetrable over the next 35 minutes before handing over net-minding duties to sophomore Justin Reed to begin the fourth quarter.
“I think we have one of the best defenses in the Bay League,” Van Sickle said, “and I believe our defense can take us a long way into the playoffs.”
One of the other major bright spots on defense has been the return of junior Adam Enomoto, who is reunited with the team after missing all of last season.
“Having Adam on the field is a huge boost, both physically and emotionally,” Coach Karsh said. “He is a great motivator for the boys, and they really rally around him.”
Enomoto is joined on defense by starters Kyle O’Sullivan and co-captain Jack Gibbons. Freshman Griffen Frye, sophomores Julian Menendez and Hunter Bernard and senior Logan Buckstaff rotate into the mix.
“This is the game I love, and it feels incredible to be back at it,” Enomoto said.
The Mustangs face Beverly Hills at home on Friday night, and it only gets tougher from there. With powerhouses Palos Verdes, Redondo Union and Peninsula all in the same league, Costa knows it will have to fight for every victory. But for now, both players and coaches feel confident.
“I’ve got high hopes,” Coach Karsh said. “A lot of these guys have been through a lot over the past four years, and I’d really like them to end on a high note.”
Whether Costa is experiencing a turnaround or a full-blown resurgence will be decided over the next two months.
Article contributed by Court Crandall, via Mira Costa Lacrosse.