Newport Harbor upsets St. Margaret's

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — The Newport Harbor High boys' lacrosse team, the No. 12 seed, upset No. 5 St. Margaret's, 8-7, to open the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs Tuesday.

It was the Sailors' first playoff win since 2009, as they avenged their widest margin loss of the regular season (14-6, from early March, also played in SJC). The win puts Coach Mark Todd's team into the second round of the playoffs in his second year.

Down 4-2 at halftime, the Sailors (10-8) made several key adjustments. They shut off the Tartans' clears with more aggressive defense, and forced numerous turnovers. The Sailors scored three goals in the third quarter, with just two seconds apart in the final 1:38, knotting the score at 5-5. They kept up their assault and pressure, scoring again in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to take their first lead of the game at 6-5.

The Tartans (11-7) quickly responded, then the teams traded goals to knot the score at 7-7 with just seven minutes to play. Ritter Hagadorn found Kole Escher at the four-minute mark for the final and game-winning goal. The Sailors continued to play stifling defense in shutting down the Tartans for the remainder of play. There were five ties and five lead changes in the game. The Tartans held a two-goal lead three different times.

Riley Robinson led the scoring for the Sailors with three goals. Matt Porteous and Kole Escher each scored twice. Jack Murrel scored with the long pole on a long run defensive clear. Luke Toohey and Brandon Rausch both contributed with two assists each.

Zac Vayda was solid in goal, registering 10 saves for the game, including five in the fourth quarter on 13 shots faced. Vayda also had four takeaways, and led the team on 19 successful clears.

The Sailors were led defensively by the senior trio of Andrew Wilson (five takeaways, three groundballs, two knockdowns), Jack Murrel (five groundballs, one takeaway, two knockdowns) and Hamilton Randle (four takeaways, two groundballs, two knockdowns).

In addition to his three goals, Robinson collected eight groundballs, plus added a takeaway, in maintaining control of the ball in the Sailors' offensive zone. Other significant contributions were made by Toohey (7-3 on face-offs, three groundballs), Porteous (three groundballs, two takeaways) and John Connelly (two groundballs, two takeaways)).

With the win, the Sailors advance to play at Foothill (10-8, No. 4 seed) on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The Knights have won Orange County and Southern California titles for five consecutive years, under Coach Jon Fox.

— Tim Anderson

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