After more than an hour of steady downpour, it was impossible to tell how much of the Lancer Lacrosse teams’ jerseys were saturated with rain and how much was sweat. But there was no doubt the Lancers had put in the work.
Lancers win 2016 LAKC championship
• #2 seed Lancers beat #5 seed Blue Valley West 18-11.
• Lancers have won three of five LAKC championships and appeared in four of five title games.
• Face-off specialist Sal Valdivia named tournament MVP
As a devoted group of fans huddled under umbrellas that could do little to protect them from the sheets of rain falling on the Durwood Stadium stands, the Lancers hoisted the prize that had eluded them the past two years: the Lacrosse Association of Kansas City championship trophy.
“Last year we got here and fell short,” said senior Will Kost, the Lancers’ 1st Team All-Metro defender. “This year? There’s nothing better. When you work all year, there’s nothing better.”
The two-seeded Lancers got off to a shaky start against five-seed Blue Valley West, who knocked off top-seeded Rockhurst in the semifinals, when play finally began after a lighting delay. The Jaguars earned the first two goals of the night — one when a Lancer defender’s pass to their goalie slipped into the net.
Head coach Will Garrett, who is wrapping up his second season leading the team, said his team came out off-balance after the delay.
“[There were] a little bit of nerves,” he said. “We were locked up in the locker room with delays, playing loud music. I think they came out a little jittery. But we settled down and got back to our game and game plan.”
That game plan included an unrelenting offensive assault, with the Lancers’ Cameron Ream, Tripp Mohr, Tom Peters and Milton Braasch all netting multiple goals on the way to a 18-11 win. The tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, however, didn’t go to an attacker, but to Sal Valdivia, the Lancers’ dominant face-off specialist, who overwhelmed Blue Valley West with his quick stick work. Valdivia opened the second half by plucking the face-off ball from the turf into his net, sprinting toward the goal, and launching a rocket of a shot into the back of the Blue Valley West net.
That started an offensive onslaught that put the Jaguars, who had only trailed by two at the half, in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the game had been securely in the Lancers’ hands for more than a quarter:
“It feels awesome,” Valdivia said after the game as family and friends gathered around him to snap pictures. “My freshman year, I saw my brother William Valvidia as the face-off and he won the championship. My sophomore and junior year we lost. But this year, this is what I’ve wanted. All four years I’ve been waiting for this moment.”
The championship returns the Lancers to the top of the LAKC after two years in exile. Combined with the Lancers titles from 2012 and 2013, the first two years of the league’s existence, the team has now won three of its five titles and appeared in four of its five title games.
Garrett said the team would take a breath or two and celebrate — but he imagined that the players wouldn’t be able to resist starting work again in a few weeks.
“You know, last year when we lost, we started getting together in the summer, started practicing again,” Garrett said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys coming back and we’re excited to hold the trophy and try to do it again next year.”