CORONA DEL MAR — G.W. Mix has coached lacrosse on every level, enjoying much of what the sport has to offer.
What he ended up doing Tuesday was a first.
Sometimes opposing coaches ask Mix, one of the best coaches in the business, to talk to their teams. That never happens after Mix leads his team to a win.
Mix said he felt inclined to talk to the opposing team afterward. That team almost ended the perfect season Mix and his Sea Kings had achieved.
The top-seeded Sea Kings survived a scare from No. 16 Servite, holding on for a 13-10 victory at home in the opening round of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division Championship tournament.
In the regular season, the Sea Kings went 19 games without losing.
Their 20th contest came in a playoff opener. The Sea Kings, ranked No. 5 in the state by laxpower.com, were almost one-and-done in the postseason. Servite, a team with a losing record, pushed CdM to the brink of elimination.
"I just felt like I needed to congratulate them for their warrior spirit and for the way they competed," Mix said of the Friars, who came back from a six-goal deficit in the second quarter and made it a game. "To end your season on that note, I guess 7-10, you can look at that and feel pretty disappointed, and I wanted them to know that they should be very proud of what they accomplished today. They were a handful."
"If that was the No. 16 seed, I am scared to death to see the No. 8 or 9 [seed]."
Mix and the Sea Kings (20-0) will face eighth-seeded Huntington Beach in the next round. The Oilers get to play CdM after getting past No. 9 JSerra, 6-4.
Seeing Huntington Beach for a second time in two weeks wasn't an issue for Mix. He was still figuring out how CdM edged Servite, the fourth-place team out of the Trinity League.
The Pacific Coast League champion Sea Kings took what looked like a commanding 6-0 lead. Thirty-nine seconds into the second quarter, Jack Ortlieb gave the Sea Kings their biggest advantage.
Then the momentum changed.
"We had the ball down there and we missed an opportunity to make it 7-0. Next thing you know it is 6-1," Mix said. "Some balls bounce their way and they keep fighting, and next thing you know it's 6-3. Now they believe that they got an opportunity and that's when we knew we'd have our hands full. Sure enough, my worst fears came through."
Mix never panicked, neither did his Sea Kings.
Their six-goal lead was cut in half three times in the second quarter. Then in the third quarter, CdM's lead was trimmed to two, then one.
Mix never called for a timeout to stop the Friars' run in the third quarter. Not the first time Servite cut the deficit to 8-7 on Patrick Shaughnessy's fourth goal with 7:31 left in the quarter. Not the second time the Friars got within, 9-8, three minutes later on Ricky Gangloff's second goal.
"You've got to hold on to those [two] timeouts [in the second half]," Mix said. "You get into those one-goal games and you start calling timeouts because you get scored on with seven, eight minutes to go, it's going to come back and bite you."
Mix saved his last two timeouts. Without a break, the Sea Kings responded each time Servite inched closer in the third quarter.
There was Ortlieb ramming in his own rebound for a score. Then Connor Canale found the back of the net for the first time.
With 70 seconds left in the third, Chris Von Der Ahe recorded his only goal, allowing the Sea Kings to take an 11-9 lead into the final quarter.
With one of the best goalies in Michael Ortlieb (13 saves), Hunter Molnar and the goalie's brother, Jack, gave him more of a cushion to work with. Molnar scored his third goal with 9:32 left to play and Jack followed with his third goal almost five minutes later.
A four-goal lead seemed safe with 4:04 left in the game, but toward the end is when Mix used those two timeouts.
"It's the first time in my coaching career I think I ever called two timeouts within three seconds of each other, with the ball, with a four-goal lead, but it was what we had to do to maintain possession," said Mix, whose team allowed double-digit goals for only the second time this year.
"We played nine very tough games [this season] and that was the 10th, and it is right up there with the other nine. No doubt about it."