Last week, Orange County played host to the JCC Maccabi Games and Artfest, an annual olympic-style sports competition and arts showcase for Jewish teens from around the United States, Israel, Great Britain and Mexico. More than 2,500 teens participated in the Games and Artfest, including, for just the second year, boys and girls lacrosse. All participants also took part in various community service initiatives.
Games were played in a nontraditional 7-on-7 format to accommodate more athletes across different sports, and that ensured a high pace of play. On the boys’ side, seven teams participated: Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Orange County and Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) fielded full squads; the Detroit and Miami delegations hosted free-agent teams, including outside players from Ann Arbor (Mich.), San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose on Detroit’s “Team Mid West Coast,” and players from Springfield (Mass.) and Hartford (Conn.) on Team Miami.
Despite a slow, 1-3 start in pool play, Team OC turned a corner in its fourth and final pool game that sparked a surprise playoff run. Down six goals to a strong New York squad entering the fourth quarter, Orange County opened the final frame on a 6-1 run to cut the deficit to one goal with just minutes left. New York eventually pulled away in the final minutes, but the spark carried over to the playoffs for Team OC.
In the opening round of the playoffs, Team OC stormed out to a 5-0 lead on No. 3-seed Philadelphia, never looking back in a 12-5 victory that paved the way for a rematch with New York in the semifinals. In what was a back and forth, intense match, Team OC earned a one goal victory and a berth in the championship game.
In the finals, Team OC hung with a talented Baltimore team through three and a half quarters, down 9-8 with around five minutes left. Baltimore pulled away, though, taking the gold medal with a 12-8 win. In the true spirit of the Maccabi Games, Ft. Lauderdale and New York chose to play a mixed scrimmage in the bronze game, with both teams being awarded third place. Overall, it was an impressive debut for Team OC, which took home the silver medal.
In the girls tournament, five teams participated, with full teams from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Great Britain, and free-agent teams with players from Hartford (Conn.), St. Louis (Mo.) and Atlanta (Ga.) on Team South Jersey and players from Rhode Island, Albany (N.Y.), Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.), Suffolk (N.Y.) and Virginia Beach (Va.) on Team OC. Philadelphia took gold for the girls, with Baltimore earning silver and Team OC winning bronze.
These games marked Team OC’s debut in Maccabi Lacrosse for both boys and girls, having not participated in lacrosse’s inaugural year in the games last summer. The boys team was led by Coach Seth Mahler, formerly of Beckman High School, and assistants Kevin Rowen (Northwood ’11) and Zack Schenker (Foothill ’11). Team OC was comprised mainly of players from Corona del Mar HS, in addition to players from Trabuco Hills, St. Margaret’s, Huntington Beach, Beckman and Newport Harbor high schools.