No. 1: Palos Verdes

The Sea Kings return nine starters from the team that won the U.S. Lacrosse L.A. division title last spring before losing the Southern Section championship game to Foothill. It was the second L.A. championship for Palos Verdes in the last three years, and there’s little reason to think they won’t be in the thick of it again this spring.

Offensively, the Sea Kings will be led by senior middie Stanny Gilbertson (58 goals, 15 assists last year), an All-American last year and the Bay League Player of the Year. Gilbertson will play at NCAA D-I Hobart, one of five PV players committed to play in college.

Joining Gilbertson on offense are junior Rizal Smith, a versatile middie/attack who is in his third year on varsity. Smith scored 62 points (27G, 35A) last year and won 62 percent of his faceoffs. Junior Petey Henkhaus, who also can play both middie and attack and is in his third varsity season. He had 46 points (28G, 18A) last season and won 59 percent of his faceoffs. Henkhaus is committed to Marquette.

David McCann, Palos Verdes
Senior goalie David McCann anchors what should be a standout PV defense.

As skilled, deep and versatile as the Sea Kings’ offense is, the team’s strength might actually be on defense, where senior goalie D McCann anchors. A four-year varsity player and two-time captain, McCann is committed to Duke. He earned All-American and Bay League Defensive Player of the Year honors last spring. In front of McCann will be juniors Jarrett Jones, committed to Georgetown, and Shane Sharp, committed to Lafayette. Jones, a third-year varsity player, has been named All-Bay League twice; Sharp earned All-Bay League last spring, his second varsity season.

Like last season, coach Jimmy Borell has stacked the Sea Kings’ schedule with a murderer’s row of top Southern California teams. Palos Verdes will play seven games against teams from Orange County or the San Diego Section, as well as games against Oak Park and Mission League stalwarts Crespi, Harvard Westlake and Loyola. Oh, and then there’s the Bay League, where all three of PV’s rivals are ranked in the Top 11 in L.A. in the preseason coaches poll.

If the Sea Kings survive the schedule and stay healthy, they should be primed for another playoff run. Last year, the brutal schedule produced an 0-6 start. But a 13-3 finish, including an eight-game winning streak, produced another L.A. championship.

Mikey Booth, Palos Verdes
Junior Mikey Booth is one of a handful of versatile PV offensive players.

Other key returning players: Senior defensive middie Steve Delcarson, a third-year varsity player and two-time captain; junior A/M Mikey Booth (20G, 12A); junior A/M Aidan Westley (30G, 8A); sophomore attack Austin Lowi (15G, 24A).

Key newcomers: Freshman middie Jake Nolls, who was pulled up to the PV varsity football squad for the playoffs last fall, is very athletic and shoots the ball 98 mph. Sophomore attack Jack Larkin, a talented and quick attackman with a great stick, moves up from JV.

“We return nine starters, but we had a lot of key injuries in the offseason. We are looking to get healthy and hopefully hit our stride come playoff time.” — Jimmy Borell

Key nonleague games: at Crespi, March 9; vs. St. Margaret’s Episcopal, March 14; at Harvard Westlake, March 18; at San Clemente, March 21; at La Costa Canyon, March 25; at Santa Margarita Catholic, March 27; at J Serra, April 7; vs. Oak Park, April 9; at Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), April 11; vs. Foothill (Santa Ana), April 20; vs. Loyola, April 27.