LA CAÑADA -- Memories from last year's two losses were fresh in the mind of the La Cañada High girls' lacrosse team Tuesday. The Spartans used it to fuel a 16-5 Prep League-opening victory over the visiting Tigers at La Cañada High.
“It was definitely in my head. We lost to them twice last year, so I didn’t want to continue that trend,” La Cañada Coach Kyle Smith said. “I wanted to come out and make a statement.”
La Cañada (1-3, 1-0 in league) came out strong in the first and second half by scoring the first three goals of each 25-minute frame to jump out to a quick lead and thwart any Westridge (0-3, 0-2) comeback attempt.
“We had three players that weren’t able to make it out today,” said Westridge Coach Theresa Mullally, who didn’t have any substitutes available in the game. “I think it would have made a bit of a difference. I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome, but I think it would have made a difference.”
“This was about redeeming ourselves and I think we did that,” said La Cañada’s Paige Milne, who scored a game-high six goals.
Milne also said the game carried special meaning as the team’s league opener.
“I think we were all fired up and wanted to win, it was a good game,” said Milne, who scored five times in the second half. “We have 12 seniors on our varsity team, so I think this should be a good season.”
The Spartans showcased their stingy defense in the victory, as they held the Tigers to 17 shots – five in the second half – while taking 33 of their own.
Cooperation and communication were keys to La Cañada’s defense, said Spartans defender Christine Noh.
“We just had that killer instinct and knowing each other’s style of play helped us today,” she said.
While La Cañada’s offense was led by Milne and Noh, who constantly pushed up into the attack and scored four times, there was plenty of balance with five players scoring and four doing so more than once.
Tiffany Chen, who also had a hat trick, opened the scoring for La Cañada 5:30 into the game. Eighteen seconds later, Noh started working on her hat trick to put the Spartans up, 2-0. Allison Chang scored with 14:29 to play in the first half to give La Cañada a 3-0 lead.
“We finally came out and played hard and aggressive, that’s something we’ve lacked this season,” Smith said. “We came out, felt good and we really pushed.”
Westridge received goals from Chelsea Burke-Gomez and Elizabeth Chemel in the first half, with Chemel’s coming 1:28 before intermission to keep the Tigers within three, 5-2.
Milne added to La Cañada’s advantage 23 seconds later, as she started and finished the fast break.
The Spartans padded their lead to start the second half before Burke-Gomez broke a 6:24 scoring drought for Westridge to pull the Tigers within 9-3. Milne nabbed her hat trick three minutes later and Rachel Dilman scored to bring Westridge back within six, 10-4, before La Cañada closed out the game on a 6-1 run.
“It feels so much better,” Smith said of recording his team’s first win of the year. “To come out and have a really good game was really nice, hopefully we use that as a spring board into tomorrow.”
Lili Lim and Lauren Galantai added Westridge and La Cañada’s other goals, respectively.
While the Tigers are still looking for their first victory of the season, Mullally said she’s seen steady improvement and hopes to keep everyone healthy and on the field this year.
“We’re looking forward to improving throughout the season,” she said. “Last year, we gained momentum throughout the season and I hope to do that this year.”