If history has anything to say about it, the La Costa Canyon High boys and girls lacrosse teams will be in the San Diego Section finals Saturday.
The boys team has played for the title six straight years, winning three championships. The girls team has been to the past four finals, also winning three.
“I think the goal is just to get there and give yourself a chance to win,” LCC boys coach Dallas Hartley said. “Sometimes you run into a better team when you get there. But getting there is always our goal.”
For girls coach Katie Dolan, who took over the program in 2007 and has won back-to-back titles, it’s a quiet confidence that drives the Mavericks.
“I don’t think we ever say the word championship going into the season,” Dolan said. “We know our goals for the team and what the personal goals are. We try to get through the regular season first and then take it game by game in the playoffs.”
Since lacrosse became a sanctioned sport in 2002, only Torrey Pines has matched LCC in section titles on the boys side. For the girls, Poway also has won three titles, but it’s been all LCC in recent years. Heading into today’s semifinals, that legacy isn’t lost on the current crop of players.
“I think it forces us to really bring our ‘A’ game to every game because even when we think we might be playing teams lesser than us, they are going to play up to our level,” said senior Spencer Peterson, who will continue his career at Duke. “At the same time, we don’t want to play down to anyone’s level, so it helps us in bigger games. And we’re really fired up to play teams that will give us a challenge.”
Players and coaches attribute La Costa Canyon’s success to several factors:
A strong middle school feeder program, allowing players to enter high school with several years of experience.
Enough participation and financial support to sustain junior varsity and freshman programs, assuring the top players are on the varsity teams.
A strong core of multisport athletes.
Should the seedings play out as designed, the team challenging the LCC boys will be No.1 Coronado. The Islanders are trying to become the first City Conference school to win a boys championship – a fact that had eluded Islanders coach Alex Cade.
“I hadn’t even thought about it, so it’s not something we talk about,” Cade said. “I think we have just a tremendous amount of focus with our juniors and seniors and great sophomores who have really embraced that leadership. It’s the strongest class I can remember.”
Should both teams advance, it would be a rematch of last year’s title game, which LCC won 15-5.
There’s also the potential for an LCC-Coronado rematch on the girls side. The Islanders come in as the No.2 seed behind the Mavericks. Last year, LCC edged Coronado 11-10.
Coronado coach Jessica Battle said the level of play has elevated throughout the section, making for intriguing postseason matchups.
“There have been so many strong teams this season and it will be really interesting,” Battle said via e-mail. “However, I truly believe when we are on, we are a tough team to beat. My girls are prepared and we are ready to play.”
For LCC’s Jackie Candelaria, the Stanford-bound attacker who drives the Mavericks’ offense, winning is addictive. She recalled losing in the title game her freshman season and the thrill she felt winning championships her sophomore and junior seasons.
“We try to instill in the younger girls the sense of joy we get each year from winning,” Candelaria said. “The new girls don’t really know what that’s like. All the girls are eager, and hear how exciting it is, and that motivates them even more.”
One lacrosse question at LCC is unlikely to be answered: Who would win a game matching the Mavericks boys against the girls (noncontact, of course)?
“The guys would,” Peterson said. “I think we’re way more intense.”
Candelaria, naturally, disagreed.
“Obviously, the girls would,” she said. “We’ve got better skills.”