West Ranch Girls Celebrate Emotional Playoff Upset

An inspired West Ranch girls lacrosse team pulled off a playoff upset Thursday night, holding off a late charge by host No. 3 Westlake to win their second-round playoff game 16-15 and advance to the US Lacrosse LA Girls Championship semifinals.

The No. 6 Wildcats (14-3) will face seventh-seeded Agoura, which upset No. 2 Palos Verdes 13-6, at 1 p.m. Saturday at Culver City HS. No. 4 Cate School plays No. 1 Redondo Union in the second semifinal at 3 p.m. Westlake finishes its first season under head coach Lindsey Munoz with a record of 13-4.

The game was bittersweet for West Ranch, which mourned the passing of 2017 captain Maya Evans, an original member of the 4-year-old program who battled leukemia the last two years.

“The West Ranch Girls have spent the morning with counselors,” coach Leesa Chelminiak said via email Thursday afternoon, “and they have all decided that they want to play in their playoff game tonight against Westlake. I am so proud of these ladies and their very difficult decision.”

In a game at Oak Park last season, both teams wore orange ribbons and celebrated Evans’ battle with cancer with a “#PLAY4MAYA” campaign. Thursday night, Westlake players greeted the Wildcats with roses and a moment of silence to honor their friend and teammate.

“The outpouring of support from the area programs over the last two years has been amazing,” Chelminiak wrote. “Anyone who knew Maya knew she was not a typical kid and was not a typical lacrosse player. She loved her team, loved her sport and loved her family.”

Now her team is playing deeper into the playoffs than in any of its previous three seasons. The Wildcats lost in the first round last year and in 2016.

Sammy Nuchow led West Ranch with five goals, and Bella Gervasi, Emmalyn Kim and Hope Jin each scored three. Jackie Nuchow and Raylene Factora scored one each.

Trailing 10-8 at halftime Thursday, the Wildcats came out of the break hot, scoring the first four goals to take a 12-10 lead. Westlake pulled within 12-11 with 17:37 to play, but West Ranch responded. In fact, every time the Warriors closed the gap, the Wildcats responded.

When Westlake’s Kailee Follette tied it 13-13 with 12:34 remaining, West Ranch scored two in a row to lead 15-13 as the clock ticked under the seven-minute mark. When Westlake closed to within 15-14, West Ranch restored its two goal margin. Westlake’s Shelby Tilton made it a one-goal game with 1:07 to play, but West Ranch won the ensuing draw and ran out the clock.

Game details in this report were culled from @RanchLacrosse and @VCSpreps on Twitter.

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