There’s a big week ahead in high school lacrosse throughout the L.A. area and a lot to catch up on since we posted last, so it’s time to dump out the notebook and try to put some things in perspective. By now all but a handful of CIF boys teams have opened their seasons, including all playoff competitors from last spring except Thacher School from the L.A. division (the Toads open Friday).
Here are a few storylines from the early going that stood out:
• Palos Verdes starting slow? Well, technically speaking an 0-3 start for a team that reached the L.A. division title game last season — and won it the year before — has to be considered slow. But look at the Sea Kings’ losses: 10-8 to San Clemente, rated No. 5 in the Southern Section on LaxPower.com; 13-8 to JSerra Catholic, rated No. 4 on LaxPower; and 12-9 to Cathedral Catholic of San Diego, a program that went 34-9 over the previous two seasons.
It doesn’t get easier for PV for a while. The Sea Kings play at No. 1-rated Foothill today, at San Diego power Torrey Pines on Wednesday and at Loyola on Saturday.
• JSerra sweeps tough three-game northern road trip: The Lions (4-0) beat Palos Verdes, Harvard Westlake and Agoura in a trip through the LA division last week and now face Bishop’s School at home Wednesday and head south to play Coronado on Friday. JSerra is well known for its seven NCAA Division I committed players, but they’re not winning on talent or reputation alone — this team works hard and plays at a very high speed. The Lions currently are ranked No. 4 in the Orange County US Lacrosse coaches poll — behind St. Margaret’s, Foothill and Corona del Mar — and it’s scary to think any of those teams are better. The OC is very strong at the top.
• Crespi’s huge week ahead: LaxRatz.com moved Crespi up to No. 2 in its video rankings last week after the Celts beat Mission League rival Harvard Westlake 14-13. Crespi might be that good, but we’ll know a lot more after Thursday. Crespi is home to Loyola (3-1) on Tuesday, then travels to Oak Park (3-2) — still ranked No. 1 by LaxRatz — on Thursday. If you care to compare common opponents, both Crespi and Loyola beat Brentwood handily, and Crespi beat Redondo Union 8-7 while Loyola lost to the Sea Hawks 8-6.
• Will tough early schedule pay off for Oak Park? The Eagles opened with two losses in the Knights Challenge, falling to Tesoro and Foothill, but they have won three in a row heading into home games this week against Malibu and Crespi. After that come road games against neighbors Newbury Park, currently No. 3 on LaxPower after Friday’s win at Westlake, and Thousand Oaks, currently No. 10 but facing Westlake and Agoura this week. Like a number of other top teams — Palos Verdes and Harvard Westlake, to name two — Oak Park doesn’t mind losing to good teams in the early going. The Eagles expect to be playing well into May.
• Speaking of the Wolverines …: Last year, Harvard Westlake surprised a lot of people with its run through the LA division of the US Lacrosse Southern Section playoffs. With a lot of players back from that group, the Wolverines put together a tough non-league schedule to go with its two annual meetings with Crespi and Loyola. Harvard Westlake lost to JSerra 11-9 on Friday and later this season plays at Foothill, at Torrey Pines and is home to St. Margaret’s, the team that ended its postseason run last spring.
Against JSerra, the Wolverines demonstrated the same kind of calm resiliency that we saw last spring. The Lions and their seven Division I commits jumped out to a 4-0 lead, were up 7-3 at halftime and quickly made it 9-3 early in the third. But Harvard Westlake didn’t panic or cash it in, instead chipping away at the deficit and making things very interesting in the final three minutes.
One thing to note, though, for better or for worse: I’m pretty sure all nine Wolverines goals against JSerra came from the outside, either time-and-room bombs or on-the-run lasers, and four or five came man-up. I’m sure they’d love to get more ball movement and not have to rely on the outside shot so much. Of course, JSerra has an impressive defense, both at the back and at midfield, so working the ball inside is no easy task.
• Too soon to tell for Newbury Park: I had a chance to see Newbury Park scrimmage in February, and the Panthers looked as good as their 4-0 start would indicate. They’re currently rated No. 3 on LaxPower, but this week will go a long way toward a true indication of their strength. Newbury has only one true quality win, 12-11 over Westlake, but starting Wednesday plays Agoura, Oak Park, Loyola and Redondo Union over the next two weeks.
• What should we make of Westlake? Westlake is another team that’s a bit hard to figure out in the early going. The Warriors have a solid road win over Agoura and a tough home loss to Newbury Park. They also are without former assistant coach Mario Waibel, who left to head up the program at Sierra Canyon. It appears Geoff Sebold, who coached Newbury from 2010-2012, has signed on to replace Waibel on head coach Dennis Ray’s staff. Westlake has a terrific finish at attack in senior Carlo Castaneda, but I’m told the Warriors are starting freshman Matt Kilkeary in goal. That might explain why they showed a physical zone defense in the Black Cat Invitational scrimmage tournament in February.
It might take until playoff time to get a true read on Westlake, though, as the schedule on LaxPower.com indicates the team isn’t playing anyone outside the Conejo Valley this season, save a visit from Redondo Union next week. The Marmonte League lists seven teams this year, and Westlake will play each of them twice. Outside of that, there’s the one game against Redondo and one against neighborhood rival Oaks Christian.
• Bay League splits up: Last year, the Bay League had seven teams. This year, rather than add one with Santa Monica bumping up from club to CIF status, the league split. The Bay League now consists of Palos Verdes, Peninsula, Mira Costa and Redondo Union. The new Ocean League has Downey, Culver City, Beverly Hills and newcomer Santa Monica. The Vikings are 0-1 in their first CIF season, having lost to Culver City 13-7.