I doubt before the season that this game would capture my attention on the same night that St. Thomas was hosting Belen Jesuit . . . but there it was . . . an undefeated Park Vista hosting a one-loss (to state #1 Oxbridge) King’s Academy.
One of my favorite things in covering the sport is to come across the unexpected . . . the unexpected star player, the unexpected overachieving season and the unexpected matchup of two overachievers.
Park Vista came into 2018 with a 6-21 record for the previous two years . . . and King’s came in 13-15 the past two years. Yet here they were at a combined 17-1 this year. To be fair, the schedules are not rigorous. Until last night King’s sole win over a team with a winning record was over Wellington, as was Park Vista’s. They pretty much played the same schedule this year and on a comparative basis King’s results were the more impressive, so I would have assumed they were the favorite to win the game.
And the game pretty much played out that way.
Let’s not overlook what both have accomplished this year . . .
The most important accomplishment could be seen in the stands . . . energized fans interested in this matchup . . . from both schools.
A nice thing to see in an area that has not shown a lot of fan interest the past few years.
There’s another reason to not overlook last night and that came with my talks with the coaches after the game.
There’s a 400-pound gorilla these two schools are facing in a sport that only currently sends one team to the FHSAA brackets and no matter what the road to that bracket runs through Military Trail near Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.
And both coaches not only know it but they preach to their players that accepting second fiddle as a program is not acceptable . . .
That’s something we will watch for in future years.
The game itself was very close statistically except at the faceoff circle. TKA dominated that facet and it helped a lot with the extra possessions being turned into goals. Shots, shots on goal, turnovers and penalties were all close but to me the difference came down to two things, King’s was able to execute their offense better, with more off ball movement, and Park Vista seemed too passive on offense until it was too late. There were opportunities for PV to take advantage of numbers and quick re-starts and they did not recognize it.
These are both young teams and that’s a part of the next level of lacrosse accomplishment, the IQ. The skills are evolving nicely for a number of the players on both sides but too many times a player tried to carry through traffic and not look to take advantage of space off ball and that’s the type of play that might work against the weak teams, but has little chance of success when playing up. That’s what is missing right now for both, that next level of recognizing what will bring you to that level where they can challenge for a district crown and beyond. The 400-pound gorilla does it as well as anyone in the state. I hope the PV fans turn out Thursday and see what they might be shooting for.
TKA jumped out at 8:32 of the first as Coby McDonald worked the right wing, getting to the front right of the cage and hitting the low left corner unassisted. McDonald followed that up at 3:21 as he dodged from up top to the right alley, firing a 15-yard bounce shot into the cage for 2-0, also unassisted. Chris Erneston then stretched it to 3-0 with 1:09 left as he went down the left alley and nailed a left hand high short side shot.
The second quarter went back and forth as both goalies made saves and it wasn’t until 1:29 left in the half that PV’s Max Edelstein was able to face dodge down the middle before finishing with the right hand low. The lead was cut to 3-2 47 seconds later as Boyd Lane scored unassisted, as he dodged from right top to the middle and finished with the left hand to the top right corner but with 19 seconds left it was TKA making it 4-2 at the half Erneston split 2 defenders on the low right side before shooting low.
TKA opened up strong in the third quarter as they took advantage of a penalty call at the end of the second quarter, with Erneston feeding McDonald on the left wing from up top, and his step down right hand found the upper corner for 5-2 at 11:36. Michael Kolkana then converted the McDonald feed from the right wing, as he cut down the middle, finishing high with the right hand for 6-2 at 10:39. Presley Almond made it 7-2 at 5:43 as he ran a split dodge from the left wing to the middle for the right hand low shot. PV got that one back with 1:30 left on EMO as Lane took the Jake Sohlden feed on the right wing for the left hand to the high short side to send it to the fourth at 7-3.
PV has attempted only 14 shots in the first three quarters and they finally let loose in the fourth, attempting 13 more, but only 4 hit the cage and the clock ran out without any scoring to make it a TKA 7-3 final.
This will be the semifinal district matchup next month and we will see how that turns out, this year and further out . . .
But for at least this year, it’s really nice to see a meaningful game between two teams with one combined loss, that didn’t include the 400-pound gorilla to the North.
We’ll be watching.
Park Vista is back in action tomorrow, hosting Oxbridge while TKA travels to Suncoast-Riviera Beach on Friday.
Faceoffs: TKA 11-2
Shots: PV 27-24
Shots on Goal: TKA 14-13
Turnovers: PV 15-14
Penalties: PV 2-1
Coby McDonald 3G
Chris Erneston 2G/2A
Michael Kolkana and Presley Almond with 1G each
Tommy Null with 10 saves
Boyd Lane 2G
Max Edelstein 1G
Jake Sohlden 1A
Jake Proctor with 7 saves
Thanks to coach Ilardo and Coach Webb for talking to me before and after the game.