Worlds Collide in U15 Boys Playoffs at US Lacrosse Southeast Championships
Colin O'Hare had a goal, two assists and three ground balls to help second-seeded Palm Beach Storm (Fla.) defeat seventh-seeded New Jersey South, 8-7, in a hard-fought boys' U15 quarterfinal at the US Lacrosse Southeast Regional Championship, Powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, in Raleigh. Semifinals and the championship game are tomorrow at the WRAL Soccer Center.
RALEIGH, N.C. – US Lacrosse has marketed Raleigh as a city where the traditional lacrosse community in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast and the growing lacrosse community in the Southeast can get to with ease. In the quarterfinals of the boys' under-15 division at the US Lacrosse Southeast Regional Championship, Powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, those worlds collided at the WRAL Soccer Center.
It was anything but easy.
Second-seed Palm Beach Storm (Fla.) used a goal and two assists from Colin O'Hare and two goals apiece from three other players to battle past seventh-seeded New Jersey South, 8-7, and earn a berth in tomorrow's semifinals. There they'll get a pool-play rematch against third-seeded No Limit Ballers (N.Y.), from Long Island, who left no doubt in a 17-3 defeat of sixth-seeded C2CNCU15 Black (N.C.).
The other half of the bracket had top-seeded Tar Heel Lacrosse (N.C.) and fifth-seeded Winston-Salem (N.C.) advancing to the final four.
Palm Beach Storm's rematch against a Northern foe tomorrow will be its second in as many days. The Floridians turned back New Jersey South, 7-4, in pool play.
"We played them in the morning, and we knew we were in for it in this game, too," Palm Beach Storm head coach Dave Cirilli said. "We're a team from Florida. A lot of teams are surprised or might not be ready for us. Then they realize that we actually have some experience, and they turn it up a notch. And then it's game on."
Cirilli deployed his resources, however, and got enough out of his team to hang on for the win after it got up early, 5-2.
Goalie Ethan Randell, a southpaw, stifled New Jersey shooters early and often. Unofficially, he finished with 19 saves, none bigger than his block of a Matt Stagnitta shot for a tie with less than 30 seconds left. Age-wise, Randell was eligible to play at the U13 level, but he did not get rattled as New Jersey South chipped away.
"He's a really good goalie," O'Hare said. "He's got a short memory, which is good for a goalie."
Randell is an impressive tactician in goal -- perhaps not what you may think first upon seeing curiously green shoes below his blue-and-white uniform -- but his teammates will take these results from "E-boh" every time.
"I get a little bit of an advantage because most shooters are used to right-handed goalies, and they'll probably shoot to the opposite hand," Rendell said. "They don't notice me, and that helps me because they're shooting to my stronger side."
Rendell had help. Late in a first half that included a dozen flags, Palm Beach Storm's man-down defense fended off a two-man advantage. Buoyed by that and five different scorers, Palm Beach led at the break, 5-3.
Cirilli also got what he needed from attackman Andy Packer, who won most of the faceoffs in the second half to thwart any momentum-changing runs by New Jersey South.
"We're comfortable putting him anywhere on the field," Cirilli said. "We thought that'd give us an opportunity to win this game. We understood what we were in for."
And the coach with Northeastern roots also got the pride and experience needed in a game like this from a team that had been together since its U13 days. Michael Dean, Trevor Kenna and Alex Cabrera each scored twice, the last of which by Cabrera with about 90 seconds left in the third quarter when he lost Nicholas Polich and put Palm Beach up, 8-5.
Stagnitta had a nifty behind-the-back goal to end the third, and he stripped Packer to start the final attempt at a tie at the end of the fourth. But Palm Beach hung on.
"This win shows that Florida lacrosse is growing more than what everyone is giving us respect for," O'Hare said. "A lot of the other teams have been talking trash that we're a Florida team and that we have no shot, but obviously we're proving them wrong."
Palm Beach Storm will need another complete effort tomorrow against the No Limit Ballers, who jumped on C2CNCU15 Black 13-0 in the first half. Mike Callisto, Nicholas Yevoli, Joe Majoy and Carter Hawthorne each scored twice for the Long Islanders during that run.
It marked one of several impressive performances on the day.
In the 4-5 quarterfinal, Lincoln Bland scored five goals to carry fifth-seeded Winston-Salem to a 10-8 win over fourth-seeded Carolina Flight in an in-state collision. The explosion offset a balanced ledger for Carolina Flight, which got two goals apiece from Will Brown, Connor Scanlin and Jack Shelton. Winston-Salem led 6-3 at the half.
Top-seeded Tar Heel got three goals apiece from Brendan Farrell and Chandler Besser, both local players, in a 13-1 win over ninth-seeded C2C Elite (Ga.) in the last quarterfinal of the day.
Regardless of who wins tomorrow's 8 a.m. round of semifinals, old and new lacrosse will collide again in the title game at 12:30 p.m. – and with invitations to the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, Powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, July 27-29 in Orlando at stake.
It won't be easy.