For the better part of three quarters Wednesday, No. 6 Thousand Oaks was in control of its Marmonte League matchup at No. 3 Westlake. The Lancers didn’t trail through three quarters, led by as many as five in the second quarter and were playing fast, loose and with confidence.
Then the sleeping giant awoke.
After Thousand Oaks took a 9-5 lead with 5:22 left in the third quarter, the rest was all Westlake, which ratcheted up its intensity and out-played, out-hustled and out-muscled the Lancers to the tune of nine unanswered goals and a 14-9 victory.
In the most recent US Lacrosse/MaxLaxLA coaches poll — as well as in a Top 10 list from LaxRatz.com — unbeaten Westlake (8-0) had begun to gain some support to move up from No. 3. For the first part of Wednesday’s game, that seemed a bit premature. After the final 15 minutes, though, the Warriors placed themselves firmly in that conversation.
Thousand Oaks (5-3), meanwhile, continues to raise questions about its consistency. The Lancers are immensely talented and have been terrific at times, but the last two weeks have been uneven. Never was that more evident than late in Wednesday’s third quarter, when Westlake began its comeback.
After a wild sequence in which Westlake was penalized one minute for unnecessary roughness and T.O. was hit for two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct in retaliation, Brandolino scored once in the 5-on-5 then again man-up after Westlake’s penalty released. That pulled the Warriors to within 9-8 with 1:42 left in the third quarter, and Cuccia tied it 9-9 a minute later with a tough inside finish that left him looking for his helmet.
The last three minutes of that quarter led to a 5-0 fourth quarter in which the patient, confident Lancers from the first 33 minutes of the game seemed to come unglued.
Until that point, though, T.O. had been in control. Matt Parham dominated faceoffs early, winning 9 of 12 in the first half, and the Lancers scooped up 14 groundballs to Westlake’s nine. With the advantage in possession, T.O. was patient on offense and eventually built a 6-1 lead behind two goals from Zach Asbury, three from Nick Auger and one from Roy Ward.
Westlake cut it to 6-4 by halftime, but Zach Byington scored twice and Ward once to give T.O. a four-goal cushion at 9-5 midway through the third.
Then Westlake flipped its switch. The Warriors won 21 second-half groundballs to T.O.’s 8 and gave up trying to beat Parham at the faceoff dot and instead bodied him off the ball and let the wings battle for possession. The result was a 5-5 faceoff stalemate in the second half.
The extra possessions enabled Westlake to out-shoot Thousand Oaks 30-14 after halftime, including 21-4 in the fourth quarter.
Cuccia led Westlake with four goals and two assists; Reilly had three goals; Spencer Tyoran had two goals and two assists; Conor O’Brien and Brandolino each had two goals and an assist; and Jacob Mannisto scored one goal.
For T.O., Auger finished with three goals, while Asbury, Byington and Ward each scored twice.