In a game between the Sea Kings of the North — LA County champion Palos Verdes — and the Sea Kings of the South — Orange County champion Corona del Mar — CdM took the US Lacrosse Southern Section crown with a 7-6 comeback victory. With its first championship, Corona del Mar (24-0) keeps the title in Orange County, where it has been since CIF first sponsored lacrosse in 2007.
The game was all PV early, as junior attackman Tony Romeri put his squad on the board in the first with a dodge from behind the goal. In contrast, CdM — unbeaten and rated No. 5 in the state entering the game — appeared out of sync at the start, not connecting on multiple passes and unable to find the back of the net.
Palos Verdes came out firing to start the second quarter, and back-to-back goals from senior co-captain Zack Fixen put his team up 3-0. Although CdM had many shots in their ensuing possessions, PV keeper Grant Cigliano came up with some great saves, including a point blank stop against a wide-open crease player. The save led to a transition goal for PV, as Romeri netted his second with an assist from senior co-captain Dean Dillenberg.
Corona del Mar finally scored, though, when attackman Jack Ortlieb converted on the man-up with an assist from senior Hunter Molnar. Palos Verdes countered after a forced crease look from CdM led to transition and a picture-perfect fast break, ending in senior John Romer finding Romeri on the back side to make the score 5-1 in favor of PV.
With seconds left in the half, Yale commit Michael Keasey scored, giving CdM some momentum going into the break.
Keasey started the second half the same way he ended the first, pulling his team within two after a strong dodge from X. Junior Casey Mix continued the scoring for CdM with a lefty shot from up top and followed it with an assist to Ortlieb, who finished on the crease to tie the game 5-5. The teams went back and forth for the rest of the quarter, and a PV goal was matched by CdM’s Bret Nelson, making it 6-6 entering the final period.
Early in the fourth, Keasey made it a hat trick to give CdM its first lead. Both teams had multiple looks after Keasey’s goal, but the goalies were up to the task, and the margin stayed at one. CdM held possession most of the fourth quarter as PV suffered some uncharacteristic lapses — a turnover on a clear, a failure-to-advance call, a four-second crease violation on goalie Cigliano, at least two misfires on usually simple passes. But Cigliano and the defense kept them with range, and it came down to the final possession.
With 1:25 left, Palos Verdes looked to tie the game on a man-up opportunity, but after four shots, three saved by CdM and future Holy Cross goalie Michael Ortlieb, the PV coaches called timeout, drawing up their final play. Palos Verdes got a shot off at the buzzer, but the Ortlieb’s biggest save of the game sealed the victory for Corona del Mar.
Palos Verdes finishes its season 20-3, with only one loss to a California team — but that was Saturday, when it mattered most.