D2: Snohomish vs Garfield
This year’s championship games were a study in contrast. Snohomish, with second year coach Chris Cote, rolled through their season undefeated yet had never played Garfield, their opponent in the final game. Cote was furiously scouting, looking for any information he could find on the Bulldogs. Meanwhile in D1, Coach John Baumann had been here before, two years ago, with many of the same players. His team not only knew what to expect in the game, they knew what to expect from this opponent, Eastside Catholic, having lost to the Crusaders six weeks earlier in the first big upset of this Washington lacrosse season. Cote and Baumann may have had the same goal, but they had distinctly different problems.
After much work, Coach Cote developed a plan and his boys worked it to perfection. He kept his team loose and happy, non-stressed and lighthearted. “They were in the locker room laughing and goofing around,” said Cote, “I had a feeling things were going to go well.” The Snohomish game plan was to hang with the Bulldogs early, and then use their deeper bench to wear them out at the end of the game.
Garfield and Coach Kelly had different ideas. They thought their superior starpower of Cedric Rhodes and Carl Barnes should be able to light up the Panthers, outscoring them early and often. They’d had success all year by outmuscling teams and burying them with the Bulldog’s talent.
It might have worked too, had Tucker Cooper not shown up to play. The Snoho goalie was stellar in the cage raking in 12 saves and keeping the Bulldogs from developing more than a one goal lead. In the first half Garfield controlled the field of battle, but could not capitalize, thanks to Cooper and his Panther defense. Halftime found the teams tied at 3-3, and Cote’s boys were calm in the locker room. “I knew they were thin,” Cote shared, “we were deeper than them and if we were just patient our superior numbers should give us the edge we needed.”
And patient they were. Garfield’s fans pumped them up to start the second half, but the Panther faithful did their job as well from the stands. Garfield rally towels were waving and Snohomish noisemakers were clanging. The two best that D2 had to offer battled through the third period largely on the backs of their individual players. The schemes may not be quite as sophisticated in D2 but the enthusiasm, heart and hustle are there. Both teams battled, but signs of fatigue started to show on the Garfield side of the pitch.
Clears were disrupted, ground balls were missed and passes that were caught in the first half, skittered out of bounds in the second. Snoho’s fresh legs came in wave after wave, and Garfield couldn’t keep up. Cote’s strategy worked and the Panthers put it away in the 4th quarter. The final score went Snohomish’s way, 7-4.
Cooper stood tall in goal, and if they let me hand out a game ball he’d have received from me. The future looks bright for the programs and Coach Cote, one of the true gentlemen in the sport, should keep them competitive for years to come. The cupboard’s not bare and the Panthers ought to ride the depths of their youth program for a few years to come.
D1: Bellevue vs Eastside Catholic
Reaping the same fruits of their labor is Bellevue as they were in the D1 finals for the second time in two years. They brought a core of seniors that have played together for seven years, often year-around on the same club team. That much chemistry usually only means good things for a program.
They were up against a young Eastside Catholic team led by first year coach Lewis Ratcliff. Rats’ pack is just learning the system this year, but strung together an impressive nine game winning streak and upset a feisty King’s Way team to reach the finals, getting payback for their season-opening loss to the same team. They brought some confidence to the game, having whacked the Wolverines once. Perhaps they could keep that lightning in the bottle for one more game.
From the outset it appeared the Wolverine strategy was to patiently exploit the defensive holes in the Crusader’s schemes. This year, no one in the state has the stick skills of the Wolverines and they just out-waited and out-rotated the Crusader defenders. Goalie Colin Schriever did his best to stave off the shots, but he was left one-on-one too much and from too close. Slowly the Blue Man Group added goals to their total , shredding EC’s poles on the dodge.
Meanwhile Bellevue’s veteran defense tied up Colin MacIlvennie and Ross Komenda, leaving only Peter Kimball to score in the first quarter. The Wolverines’ D has only given up 4 goals per game on average, and today they would be exactly on that number. One goal per quarter, one each half for MacIlvennie and Peter Kimball; that’s all that would be allowed. Coach Baumann of Bellevue seemed to have a counter for everything the Crusader defense had to offer. In the end, it was a 13-4 victory, giving Bellevue the season they planned for and Eastside Catholic one that exceeded all expectations. “I’m proud of my boys,” said Coach Ratcliff, “but today the better team won.”
Another season comes to a glorious end, thanks in no small part to the Washington Chapter of US Lacrosse, Ron Wright and his slew of unheralded volunteers. Lacrosse doesn’t happen without a ton of thankless work performed by willing volunteers. And I’m sure all of them can’t wait to do it again next year.
We’ll be there.