Spurred by a string of six unanswered second half goals, the top-ranked Torrey Pines boys lacrosse team rebounded from a four-goal first half deficit to turn back visiting La Costa Canyon, 14-12, Friday night, April 26.
The victory moved Torrey Pines to 15-2 overall and 4-0 in Avocado West League play while third-ranked LCC fell to 10-4 and 3-1. It was the Falcons’ third consecutive win in the series and assuming no missteps over the next two weeks, strengthened the likelihood that they will earn the No. 1 seeding in the Open Division when CIF Playoff brackets are revealed.
All of that seemed pretty uncertain in the first half Friday as La Costa Canyon, displaying a perfect balance of aggressiveness and patience on offense, broke a 3-3 tie when senior Jake Auger scored the first of his six goals, beating his defender one-on-one and ripping a cross cage blast into the net with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Mavericks then dominated the second quarter, scoring three straight goals, two by Auger (both on assists from senior JJ Sillstrop) to open up a four-goal gap on the Falcons. It was the biggest deficit Torrey had faced all season and their coach, Jono Zissi, while confident in his squad’s ability to bounce back, acknowledged that his opponent had them on their heels early.
“Records go out the window anytime these two teams play,” said Zissi who guided the Falcons to the CIF Open Division title last spring. “This year, I think we’re the better team but they caught us off guard.
“The first half was all them. They played great and were phenomenal offensively, hitting on all cylinders. They’re more methodical than we are and had the ball about three-quarters of the time in the first half—when we’re on defense for that long, our guys fall asleep. They were controlling the tempo and that’s not our game.”
With just more than three and a half minutes remaining before halftime, sophomore Dewey Egan got loose left of Maverick goalie Mitch Likins and stopped the bleeding with his first goal, cutting the margin to 7-4, which held until intermission.
A mere fifty-three seconds after the break, Torrey’s senior captain Porter Hollen sent a slick entry pass to Christian Rasmussen right in front of the goal and the junior struck paydirt. Just that quick, the gap was cut to two and things started to subtly swing the Falcons’ way.
Auger came from behind the net and connected from a sharp angle to restore LCC’s three-goal lead but any sense of control was short-lived. With 3:44 left on the third quarter clock, TP senior Alex Pistorius went high to snag a pass, twisted while still airborne and drilled the ball home to narrow the score to 8-6. Two minutes and 49 seconds later, Egan capped a four-goal blitz with a ‘tap in’ off a Miles Botkiss pass, and improbably, the Falcons had regained the lead, 9-8.
Their head man said there was no real tactical genius involved. “At a certain point, I think our guys were not confident,” said Zissi. “We were down by four goals but as soon as we scored that first goal of the second half, that’s all it took—when our guys are playing confident and loose, they’re great and pretty tough to beat.”
On the other bench, LCC Coach Kevin Cooper had no problem identifying what altered the course of the contest. “It was all about the third quarter—they came out on fire and we came out sloppy, shot ourselves in the foot,” said Brown. “We got a penalty 30 seconds in, they get a goal and all of a sudden they’ve got life.
“They stalled our momentum there and it went from 7-4 to 9-8 in what seemed like a matter of seconds. You have to give credit to them. They’re an incredible team but we expect to get a stop in there and clear the ball out. I think our offense touched the ball one time in the third quarter. They kind of took the game over.”
The Falcons pushed their lead to two early in the fourth quarter when Rasmussen one-timed a Hollen toss on the power play, setting up a frantic final stretch. The adversaries exchanged goals two goals apiece but with less than two minutes to go, trailing 12-10, LCC showed it wasn’t about to run up the white flag. Auger clicked from the outside twice in 43 seconds to knot things with 1:01 remaining in regulation.
Off the subsequent draw, it took just 10 seconds for the Falcons to find Egan and the big man to find the net for the last of his five goals. It proved to be the game winner. Rasmussen matched Egan’s five goals and Pistorius and Mines registered two each for Torrey Pines. For LCC, Auger collected five goals while Sillstrop and Jacob Tauss both chipped in with two.
Egan summed up the sentiments from Falcon side. “LCC’s always the biggest game on our schedule and this was a huge win,” he said. “It feels great right now but the playoffs are coming in a few weeks and that’s going to be a whole new game. We could see LCC again and we need to make sure we’re ready to play better than we did tonight.”
For Cooper, who was patrolling the sideline with the aid of a kneeling walker (after breaking his ankle playing in a family football game over Easter), the outcome was bitter but his team’s performance provided hope going forward.
“This is the best team we’ll face all year and to go toe-to-toe with them for four quarters, I’m really proud of our guys,” Cooper said. “Seven or eight turnovers, that’s very uncharacteristic for us and it’s something we just can’t have, especially in a big game like this—but it was still essentially a one-goal game.
“We clean that up, get a couple more possessions, cash in on offense, don’t hit five-or-six pipes like we did tonight and the result could easily go in our favor. It’s always a dogfight against these guys. It’s our favorite game of the year and I hope we have a chance to do it again.”