While Loyola and Palos Verdes have been the consensus choice for the top two spots in the US Lacrosse/MaxLaxLA coaches poll since the preseason, there’s a third team suddenly creeping into the conversation — unbeaten Westlake (7-0).
This week, Loyola again retains the No. 1 spot, but coaches are evenly split on the Cubs (9-1) and Palos Verdes Sea Kings (6-2). Each received six first-place votes this week, but one voter had a top three of Loyola, Westlake then PV; another ballot had Westlake on top, followed by Loyola and PV. Still another added Thousand Oaks (5-2) to the mix, ranking the top three as Loyola, T.O. and PV, with Westlake fifth, behind Peninsula (8-1).
The final Week 4 rankings are below, but the voting raises an interesting question: What would Westlake have to do to pass either Loyola or PV in the rankings?
Is remaining undefeated enough? The Warriors have only five games against Top 10 teams on their schedule. They already have beaten No. 10 Newbury Park, and they play host to No. 5 Thousand Oaks on Wednesday. After that, they have a visit to No. 9 Oak Park on April 20 and follow with trips to Newbury and T.O.
Westlake’s strength of schedule ranks 15th among L.A. teams. Last year, the Warriors’ SOS ranked 14th among L.A. teams. That and their 13-3 regular-season record earned them the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. After a narrow 11-10 home win over Redondo Union, Westlake lost 12-9 at Loyola.
Will this year prove similar? It’s hard to argue with Westlake’s roster — plenty of offense from the likes of Brett Reilly, Jesse Cuccia and Conor O’Brien; a good faceoff man who can stay on the field and play at either end in Drew Taylor; an excellent defender who can start transition in Christian Ahn; and an elite goalie in sophomore Matt Kilkeary.
But the second half of the schedule looks a bit tougher than the first. Ultimately, how they play down the stretch will determine if they truly belong in the conversation for No. 1.
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Biggest jump: Cate (3-0) didn’t start its season until March 19 but has opened with three fairly easy wins. That earned them enough consideration to enter the rankings at No. 20.
Biggest fall: Agoura dropped from 11 to 13 after losses to Thousand Oaks (8-7 in overtime) and at Newbury Park (7-0).
Newcomer: Cate (3-0).
Dropped out: Viewpoint (2-5).
Also worth considering: Valencia (5-5), West Ranch (3-4), Birmingham (6-3).