NEWPORT BEACH — As quickly as the St. Margaret’s Tartans stole victory from the jaws of defeat last Wednesday against Foothill, victory was snatched away from them Saturday in the US Lacrosse Southern Section Championship game in a 10-9 overtime loss to Loyola of Los Angeles at Newport Harbor HS.
The Cubs claimed their third consecutive Southern Section title, having beaten Corona del Mar in 2016, Foothill last year and now St. Margaret’s.
With both defenses taking center stage in the first half, the score was tied 4-4 at halftime, and Loyola led 6-5 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Tartans’ Kevin Groeninger (2g, 2a) scored both of his goals in the fourth quarter to give the Tartans a much needed boost, breaking a 6-6 tie and pushing St. Margaret’s ahead 8-6 with less than nine minutes to play. Loyola scored three in a row to regain the lead at 9-8 with 2:23 to play, then Wednesday’s hero, Trevor Peay (1g, 1a) tied the game 9-9 with 1:42 remaining, ultimately sending it to overtime.
However, after missed chances by both squads for the majority of the overtime period, Loyola freshman Owen Gaffney cranked in the game-winner in the final minute.
While it was not a fairytale ending for the Tartans, head coach Glen Miles was proud of the character his team showed coming back after a sloppy start to the game.
“Character is a comeback,” Miles said, “and we had two shots to win it, and [Loyola] had two and three shots to win it. One of them went in, simple as that.”
Besides Peay and Groeninger’s offensive contributions, Garrett Kuntz (1g, 2a), Koa Todd (2g), Tomas Anderson (1g), Andy Shin (1g), and Nico Vorzimer (1g) all contributed on the offensive side of the ball. Stu Pollard (1a) won 9 of 14 face-offs, and goalie Zane Handy played his heart out with 10 saves.
St. Margaret’s finished with an impressive 19-3 overall record and the Orange County championship. The Tartans’ only losses this season came against Palos Verdes, Torrey Pines and Loyola.
St. Margaret’s had beaten Loyola 8-4 in a regular season game March 17, but the Cubs won the ultimate rematch. Miles said there was more familiarity between the two clubs the second time around.
“Both teams are much more experienced,” he said. “Great zone defense on both sides. We played much better in the second half and got shots. We could not get shots in the first half. We played a great second half, and I’m really proud of them.”
The Tartans are a junior- and senior-heavy club, with 11 seniors graduating in June, including Conrad Hampson, Michael Chewy, Peay, Kuntz, Andrew Malta, Ries Faller, Shin, and Chris Totah, among others. Miles was emotional talking about the significance of the game for his strong senior class.
“[It hurts] a lot,” Miles said. “It hurts a big a deal.”
On the plus side, Groeninger, Pollard and Handy are all expected to return as seniors for the Tartans in 2019. While it looks dark now, there is a strong chance St. Margaret’s could return to the Southern Section title game next year with their returning class and players that continue to develop under Miles’ legendary tutelage.