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CdM battles back, captures Southern Section title
MISSION VIEJO - Corona del Mar’s boys lacrosse players weren’t about to let a four-goal deficit get in the way of their ultimate goal.
CdM clawed its way back and held on in the final seconds for a 7-6 victory over Palos Verdes in the U.S. Lacrosse Division 1 Southern Section championship game Saturday afternoon in front of 2,500 at Mission Viejo.
The Sea Kings, who won their first county championship Wednesday, captured their first Southern Section crown.
CdM (24-0) also extended the South’s streak of titles to six in the Southern Section finals. Foothill had won five in a row but was knocked out by Corona del Mar in the semifinals of the county playoffs last week.
It took a halftime pep talk from the seniors to turn the tide for CdM, which trailed, 4-0 with 3:29 left in the first half and 5-2 at halftime.
“We were down at halftime in the Huntington Beach game in the second round, and we really took it upon ourselves to step up and we got over there in the huddle and said the same thing,” said Corona del Mar midfielder Michael Keasey.
“We said, ‘Seniors, it’s time to step up. We have 24 minutes left in our high school lacrosse career and we’re going to leave it all on the field,' and that’s exactly what we did.”
CdM coach G.W. Mix figured the Sea Kings were up to the challenge.
“We had a much more difficult run, and that’s not to discredit Palos Verdes,” Mix said. “I felt like we had a far more challenging run through the playoffs to get to this game than they did. So two-goal deficits, three-goal deficits, trying to hang on with a one-goal lead, none of that stuff is going to rattle us because we’ve been there and we had overcome it already.”
Palos Verdes (20-3) looked to be in control with a three-goal lead at halftime. But Corona del Mar came out firing in the second half. Keasey had one goal and Casey Mix two to tie the game, 5-5 with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
The game was tied, 6-6, after three quarters. Keasey scored his third goal of the day with 10:46 left in the game to put CdM ahead, 7-6.
But there were some anxious moments for CdM in the final minutes as goalkeeper Michael Ortlieb was tested time and time again.
Palos Verdes, playing with a man advantage, had seven shots in the final 1:25. But Ortlieb, who wound up with nine saves, was there to make some key stops with help from his defense to preserve the victory.
“That last minute was mentally draining to say the least,” Ortlieb said. “But I have faith in my teammates and my defense and we got it done. I welcome the pressure. I play well under pressure, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
“Michael stood on his head in the fourth quarter,” Coach Mix added. “He really made some brilliant plays that kept the trophy in our trophy case, no doubt about it."
Palos Verdes, the North Division champion, was led by Tony Romeri and Zack Fixen with two goals each.
Brett Nelson and Jack Ortlieb also scored for Corona del Mar. Taylor Epp and Connor Kruse had four groundballs each for CdM.
The Sea Kings were presented the championship trophy by Dan Perry of U.S. Lacrosse then celebrated on the field with family and friends.
“We’ve tried all season to make sure that it was about us,” Coach Mix said. “And it’s about the guy on your left and the guy on your right. If you don’t let him down and he doesn’t let you down, we’re going to be in a good spot, and that’s kind of what they reminded each other of at halftime.”
The victory came a couple weeks after the death of Coach Mix’s father and Casey Mix’s grandfather.
“It’s special in light of everything that’s gone on and all the adversity we’ve faced, what my son has gone through and his teammates have gone through trying to help him through that, it’s pretty special,” Coach Mix said. “Any time you can go through a lacrosse season in a county as strong as this one and not lose a game, that’s pretty special.”