The Eastlake High School varsity boys lacrosse team defeated host Bonita Vista, 14-2, on Wednesday to officially wrap up this year’s Mesa League championship, the program’s seventh consecutive and the 11th league title in the history of the program.
The Titans keep coming back no matter how much the talent drain may be each year with an infusion of promising young talent ready to fill in the gaps — and take the challenge of upholding tradition.
“It certainly says a lot about support from the school’s administration and support from the parents — both are fundamental to our success,” EHS head coach Dale Drees said after Wednesday’s title-clinching victory pushed the team’s record to 6-0 in league play, 11-6 overall.
“We have dedicated players who come into the program with experience (at the youth club level) and we have players who are new to the sport who work hard to gain experience and grow within the program through our junior varsity team.
“A big part of our success is due to our junior varsity program. Hopefully we can continue that.”
The Titans remain on everyone’s radar.
Host Bonita Vista, which was celebrating Senior Day in its final regular season game, came out fast in taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Timmy Tucker.
But the visitors, who were missing several top attackmen for the contest, quickly regained their composure — and the lead. Eastlake tied the game, 2-2, by the end of the opening quarter and led 7-2 at halftime.
The Titans netted 14 unanswered goals in recording the victory.
Tony Santos and Michael Carino both scored four goals to lead Eastlake offensively while McKinley Egland-Young and Carino both contributed three assists. Carino also led the Titans defensively with eight ground balls while Aidan Donaghe had five ground balls.
The San Diego Section playoffs face off May 7 for Division I teams and May 8 for Division II teams. Playoff seeds in the Open Division, Division I and Division II brackets will be announced on the section’s website (www.cifsds.org) on Saturday.
Eastlake is currently ranked second among Division II teams behind top-ranked Granite Hills (10-4). Francis Parker (10-3) is ranked third, followed by No. 4 Fallbrook (14-3).
Eastlake advanced to last year’s Division II championship game, finishing runner-up to Canyon Crest Academy by a 9-4 score.
Drees said his team has a goal of returning to the division final this year.
“Our goal is always to win league but this year our goal is also to come away with a division title,” Drees said. “In putting together our non-league schedule this season we attempted to schedule the highest ranked Division II teams from last year as well as excellent teams from Division I so that we would be prepared for both league play and playoffs.”
The Titans have to enter the playoffs with a lot of confidence after recording an 8-7 non-league win at Granite Hills on April 19.
“It’s huge just being able to play them and to come away with a win shows that we can play with anyone,” Drees said.
“I do think we are well positioned going into the Division II playoffs. I like our chances for a deep playoff run again this year but it won’t be easy. Our unselfish play on offense and aggressive play on defense have been the keys to our success so far this season and I expect we will ride that strategy into the playoffs. I guess we’ll find out how well our strategy worked after May 18 (the date of the CIF championship game).”
Eastlake’s varsity team returns 14 players from last year’s league championship team and each brought significant playing time into the season, according to Drees. The team is also bolstered by athletes who have proven themselves at the JV level in recent years, he added.
“It is extremely difficult to highlight the play of any one player because the contributions that each makes to the team are significant,” the EHS coach said. “I think our talent at the attack position is the best that Eastlake has ever seen.
“The combined efforts of seniors McKinley Egland-Young, Jackson Schneider, Jaxen Trinidad and junior Braden Mayer pose matchup challenges for opposing defenses.”
Drees noted that when Trinidad — the 2018 Mesa League Player of the Year— went down due to injury that the team didn’t seem to lose a step.
“Our midfield has been impacted by injury this season but we have still seen very solid play from seniors Tony Santos, Jameson Masias, Michael Carino and sophomore Chase Trinidad offensively and senior Zachary Ertzner and junior Manuia Ahfook defensively,” Drees noted.
“The close defense has been more aggressive this year, led by senior Nic Bigalk with seniors Carson Webster and Errol Fitzpatrick. Also at close defense, Luke Bigalk (sophomore) has been a nice addition from JV the last year. We are fortunate again this year to have Kai Bowden in goal who can always keep us in a game.”
Bonita Vista finished the season 3-3 in league play, 7-12 overall. Hilltop also finished 3-3 in league play while Otay Ranch (0-14 overall) finished 0-6.
Playoff championship games are scheduled at Del Norte High School.