Nike/US Lacrosse South Region Report
by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com
Devon Lewis, Lake Highland Prep (Fla.)
The senior midfielder scored the decisive goal in an 8-7 win over St. Andrew's with 6 minutes, 10 seconds left in the state championship game and also ended the Scots' final attack, jarring the ball loose from Grant Mahler with eight seconds left to secure the victory. In the third quarter, he fired up an electric crowd, scoring the first of his two goals on the night to put the Highlanders up 6-5 in the midst of a four-goal run. Lewis finished the season with 44 goals, 27 assists and 30 ground balls.
Evan Chang-Tung, St. Mark's (Texas)
The senior midfielder scored the game-tying goal with 43 seconds left in regulation of the state championship and won it in the third minute of sudden-death overtime with a shot from 15 yards out. The game's Most Valuable Player, Chang-Tung tallied three goals, one assist and one ground ball for the day and finished the season with 28 goals and nine assists.
Charlie Sikes, Episcopal Dallas (Texas)
The freshman goalie slowed the St. Mark's attack in the state championship game, finishing with 19 saves, including eight in the first 16 minutes. He also came up with a point-blank save with 1:25 remaining in the semifinals against Dallas Jesuit to keep the game tied at 5-5 before Richie Loftus scored the game winner with 11 seconds remaining.
Games to Watch
Centennial (Ga.) vs. Harrison (Ga.) – May 15
These two teams meet in the state semifinals for a chance at the championship game May 18 against either Roswell (Ga.) or Lambert (Ga.). Centennial beat Harrison 12-5 in the season opener for both teams. Harrison (11-8) beat Walton (Ga.) 8-6 in the quarterfinals on May 11, while Centennial knocked out Lassiter 13-12. The Knights didn't even make the state tournament last year, and the Hoyas lost in the second round.
McCallie (Tenn.) vs. Montgomery Bell (Tenn.) – May 17
McCallie beat Montgomery Bell 9-8 on April 26 and now looks to repeat that performance when the teams meet again in the state semifinals. The Big Red is 11-6 but has lost to just two Tennessee opponents, and McCallie is undefeated against in-state competition. Both teams made the Final Four last year but lost in the semifinals. Montgomery Bell lost 5-4 in double overtime against Memphis University School, and the Blue Tornado lost 6-5 to eventual champion Brentwood LC.
1. Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), 20-5
The Highlanders won their second state title in three years with an 8-7 win over St. Andrew's (Fla.), which has held the top spot all season. Lake Highland had lost to the Scots 10-5 on March 1, but came on strong in the second half of the season to win the game that mattered most. After opening the year with a 5-4 record, with losses to St. Andrew's, Jupiter (Fla.), Benjamin (Fla.) and national No. 1 Boys' Latin (Md.), the Highlanders went 15-1 to close the season, including a 9-3 win over Ponte Vedra (Fla.) in the state semifinals. The lone loss in that stretch came in a 10-6 decision against nationally-ranked Calvert Hall (Md.). Clay Phillips led Lake Highland with 71 goals and 32 assists, while Billy Roll added 70 assists, 57 goals and 57 ground balls. Max Parker finished with a .744 face-off percentage. Adam Sawicki allowed 6.4 goals per game.
2. St. Mark's (Texas), 18-3
After finishing as a state runner-up four times in the last 10 years, the Lions claimed their first state title in program history with an 8-7 overtime win against Episcopal Dallas (Texas) on May 5. St. Mark's came through as the fourth seed in the Austin Super Regional after suffering losses to fellow North District opponents Episcopal Dallas and Dallas Jesuit (Texas) back in March. The Lions, who ended the season with 11 consecutive wins, avenged the loss to ESD in with a 16-9 victory in the Southwest Preparatory Conference championship April 13. They beat defending state champion Highland Park (Texas) 8-4 for a second time this season in the state semifinals May 4. Sophomore attacker Jack Fojtasek finished as the team's points leader, tallying 29 goals and 22 assists, and two-time All-American Bear Goldstein finished with 128 ground balls and 78 caused turnovers.
3. St. Andrew's (Fla.), 20-4
The Scots' state championship loss to Lake Highland Prep was their only loss to a Florida opponent all year. They beat South Region-ranked Benjamin (Fla.) for a second time this season in the state semifinals, 14-3, on May 3, behind an eight-goal effort by Connor Whipple, who tied an FHSAA record for most goals in a state tournament game and finished with 96 goals this season. Andy Wheeler had a game-high four goals in the championship game – the first two and last two goals for his team. St. Andrew's entered the state final on an eight-game win streak, and its only other losses came against nationally-ranked Boys' Latin (Md.) and McDonogh (Md.) and Timon-St. Jude (N.Y.), which has received votes in the national Top 25 poll. St. Andrew's won state titles in 10 of the previous 12 seasons.
4. Episcopal Dallas (Texas), 15-7
The Eagles' tough schedule paid off in the postseason but they fell short of the championship in an overtime battle with St. Mark's, who they split games with during the regular season. Episcopal Dallas, which took a 6-1 lead in the second quarter, was paced offensively by junior attackman Richie Loftus and sophomore midfielder Sam Romano, who each tallied two goals. The Eagles had to beat some of the best competition in Texas to get to the final, upsetting then-unbeaten The Woodlands (Texas) in the final game of Super Regionals 11-10, and knocking out Dallas Jesuit 6-5 in the semifinals to avenge an April 19 one-goal loss to the Rangers. Three of ESD's losses this year were against teams from the Maryland/D.C. area.
5. Dallas Jesuit (Texas), 14-3
After beating Episcopal Dallas 8-7 in the regular-season finale, the Rangers came up short in the rematch May 4 in the state semifinals. Jesuit was up 5-4 in the fourth quarter but ESD tied it with 2:15 remaining and scored the game-winner with just seven seconds left. It was the Rangers' second one-goal loss this season after Highland Park beat them 7-6 on April 13 to claim the top seed in the North District, which accounted for all four spots in the state tournament. Jesuit's only other loss was to Gilman (Md.), 11-9, on March 12. The Rangers were 2-1 against out-of-state competition.
6. Benjamin (Fla.), 17-3
The Buccaneers ended their season with a 14-3 loss to St. Andrew's (Fla.) in the state semifinals – their first trip to an FHSAA Final Four since the state began recognizing lacrosse in 2008. They had a tough road through the playoffs, handing Jupiter (Fla.) and Vero Beach (Fla.) each their third losses of the season in the first two play-in games and then overcoming an improved Barron Collier (Fla.) team to get to the state playoffs. In a rematch of a regular-season game in which Benjamin lost 11-8, St. Andrew's took a 6-1 lead in a rain-soaked first quarter, and the Bucs never found their rhythm on offense, finishing with 16 shots to the Scots' 30. Benjamin's only other loss was a 6-4 decision against Jupiter (Fla.) on April 3. Leading scorer Robert Jacobs finished the year with 55 goals.
7. Highland Park (Texas), 14-3
The Fighting Scots lost two of their last three games to eventual state champion St. Mark's, once in the regular-season finale and the other in the semifinals – both by 8-4 scores. Highland Park had been in a similar situation going into the Final Four last year when it avenged regular-season losses to Dallas Jesuit in the semifinals and to St. Mark's in the championship, but this time, the Scots couldn't pull it off. They fell behind 8-2 early in the fourth quarter and a rally effort fell short. Highland Park's only other loss came against the The Woodlands in the season opener. The Scots were led this season by junior midfielder Robert Mencke and senior goalie Matthew Meaders, both All-Americans.
8. Ponte Vedra (Fla.), 21-3
The Sharks 14-game winning streak came to an end with a 9-3 loss to Lake Highland in the state semifinals. It was the second year in a row the Sharks lost to the Highlanders in the semifinals, despite out-shooting the Highlanders 32-28. They lost to Lake Highland 9-6 in the second game of the season and 12-10 in the 2012 semifinals. Ponte Vedra was coming off a 15-3 win over Maclay (Fla.) in the third round of state play-in games, a rematch of a 9-8 regular-season loss. Scott Applegate, Garrett Boyle and Dalton LeMaster accounted for Ponte Vedra's goals in the semifinals. LeMaster led the team with 44 goals this season, and Logan Taucher had 116 ground balls.
9. McCallie (Tenn.), 20-2
The Blue Tornado breezed into the final four by outscoring their first two state tournament opponents 30-3. They picked up their second win over Ensworth (Tenn.) in two weeks, handing the Tigers a 14-3 loss in the quarterfinals May 11 after beating them by six goals on May 3. Chad Toliver and Brier Davis each had four goals in McCallie's 16-0 win over Knoxville Catholic (Tenn.) in the first round. The Blue Tornado haven't lost to an in-state opponent this season, as their two losses were against Lassiter (Ga.) and nationally-ranked Calvert Hall (Md.). They own out-of-state wins against Severn (Md.) and Georgia's Milton, Centennial, Decatur and Pope.
10. Centennial (Ga.), 17-3
The Knights knocked previous No. 7 Lassiter (Ga.) out of the state tournament, beating them 13-12 in the quarterfinals May 11 after handing East Coweta (Ga.) a 21-5 loss four days earlier. Centennial, which makes its rankings debut, has just one loss to a Georgia opponent, falling to Milton — which also lost in the state quarterfinals — 18-16 on April 26. The Knights' other losses were a 13-12 overtime game against McCallie (Tenn.) and a 12-11 loss to Bolles (Fla.). They finished 2-2 against out-of-state competition, beating two other Florida teams.
News and Notes
We are the champions
Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) knew if it stayed the course, it would get the rematch they waited for since dropping a 10-5 decision to St. Andrew's on March 1.
The Highlanders got their wish, meeting the Scots for a fifth-straight year in the final four and third consecutive time in the state championship.
After ending St. Andrew's run of eight-straight titles in 2011, Lake Highland picked up its second championship in three years May 4 with an 8-7 win.
"It feels good," Lake Highland coach Chris Spaulding said. "These guys worked hard and to see them walk away as champions is pretty special."
The state championship likely will go down as one of the most memorable.
St. Andrew's took a 2-0 advantage three minutes in, but the teams traded leads the rest of the way with goals coming in bunches. Down 5-3, Lake Highland scored four straight to go up 7-5 just four minutes into the fourth quarter. The Scots tied it up with two goals in the next minute before Devon Lewis netted what ended up being the game-winner with 6:10 left.
The Scots were on the attack for one last shot but turned the ball over with eight seconds remaining to seal the game for Lake Highland.
"We had a sense of urgency, trying to get something going," St. Andrew's coach R.J. Dawson said. "We had a play drawn up and had an opportunity late but the ball didn't go our way."
The Highlanders defense limited Scots leading scorer Connor Whipple to just one goal with senior Casey Irish guarding him most of the game, and Max Parker virtually negated the threat of Grant Mahler at the faceoff 'X.' In a much anticipated matchup of two of the state's best face off men, Parker helped the Highlanders control possession by winning 14 of 19 face offs for the game.
Spaulding said the faceoff dominance was the biggest difference between this year's championship and last year's state final loss, 16-10, to the Scots. During their regular-season matchup, the faceoff was evenly played, but Spaulding said since that March game, the Highlanders vastly improved other aspects of their game.
"We were 5-4 at one point, but we put a pretty good schedule together for these guys," Spaulding said. "They had a lot of stuff to overcome but these guys stuck together and they kept working hard and we really got better as the season progressed and really started to peak at the right time. Once they had those losses, they buckled down and learned from those mistakes."
Hayward Lee couldn't have imagined a better close to his lacrosse coaching career than to see the St. Mark's (Texas) team he has guided for 10 years win its first-ever state championship.
Especially the way it played it out.
St. Mark's fell behind Episcopal Dallas 6-1 in the second quarter, but slowly chipped away at the deficit, making it a 7-4 game going into the fourth quarter.
The Lions scored two goals in the first three minutes of the final period in regulation but neither team could find the back of the net until Evan Chang-Tung made a quick dart down the right side and fired a shot past ESD freshman goalie Charlie Sikes with 43 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Defender Justin Harvey, who recorded 43 caused turnovers this season, had a critical takeaway to give St. Mark's possession and to set up Chang-Tung's goal.
Chang-Tung followed with the golden goal in overtime for the 8-7 win.
"I'm so happy for our kids and our program and all the great kids and teams we had that came up a fraction short," said Lee, who announced his retirement three days after the win. He has been coaching lacrosse for 20 years, 14 as a head coach at ESD and St. Mark's. "That game was the epitome of what a state championship should be – both teams brought out the best of each other. I remember thinking at one point late in the game what a shame it was that only one team would walk away with the trophy because they both deserved it."
ESD came out hot from the start, scoring the first six goals of the game, though the sixth was an own goal after a St. Mark's defender scooped up a loose ball on the crease and tried to flip it back to goalie Chris Roach, who finished with 11 saves and a 64 percent save rate for the season.
"Talk about a demoralizing situation," Lee said. "I called timeout to try to keep them calm and focused on the next play, but this group is so mature and they love each other so much, there was no breaking our spirit. We just clawed our way back from there."
The comeback was symbolic of the Lions' season. After losing three games in March, St. Mark's returned from spring break an improved team and won 11 straight to end the year.
"We needed to do some different things, and the kids bought in," Lee said. "We were much more patient offensively, we had better off-ball movement, we improved significantly at the faceoff X, and we hit a stride defensively — our communication, our help for one another started clicking. We were a completely different team the second half of the season."
Lee finishes his career with a record of 204-57 with three THSLL state championships.
Note: The Nike/US Lacrosse Regional rankings will not necessarily reflect the same order as the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll, which is voted on by US Lacrosse area representatives and Lacrosse Magazine contributors, who compile the regional rankings.