By Ed Piper
Max Scott walked on to the lacrosse field at La Jolla High School having never played the stick-and-net sport popular in the East but gaining in prominence here. That’s because Coach Tom Duerr texted him a message, “If you ever want to try it, come on by.”
So Scott, a junior, took up Duerr’s challenge this spring. The season had already started. First, Scott tried his hand at playing short-stick defensive midfielder, or “middie.” But the Vikings, young and inexperienced, needed a goalie.
“My first game was against Country Day,” remembers Scott, now a veteran of eight games in goal. “I had never even held a goalie stick before then.”
Though the team has yet to win a game, Scott continues to apply himself to become more effective.
“Since then, I’ve been working hard on learning the techniques and strategies to make myself better. I’ve learned a lot about catching and throwing with a stick, mainly. Also, I had no idea of the rules of strategy of how lacrosse works until a few games into the season.”
Coach Duerr appreciates his new goalie’s efforts and willingness to learn under fire.
“Max has held an unbelievable attitude this season,” said Duerr. “He intended to play midfield, but as a previous catcher in baseball, we saw him more fit for the goalie position.”
Now that he has clocked many minutes in the net, Scott has goals for specific areas he wants to improve in: “I want to be better at clearing the ball after a save, and I want to be able to stop bounce shots better.”
La Jolla played and tied Mira Mesa even in the first half at home April 11. But then the Vikings let the Marauders build a four-goal lead.
In the last 1:30, La Jolla came back to tie. But the Marauders slipped in the winning goal with less than one second left on the clock to win 9-8. It had to be a little discouraging, but the game also showed the red-and-black that they can keep a solid team close.
Said midfielder Connor Walton, “Coach Duerr drills into us that we are a family. Every time we break out of the huddle, we say ‘family’.”
Blake Shores, a long-stick midfielder and captain of the defense, identified an area in which the team has grown: “I would say that we have improved with our communication on the field. This allows us to run plays and switch as a unit, instead of being confused by not talking.”
He and Walton agreed that the Vikings “need to improve on putting a full game together. We have put some amazing quarters together, but when we have one bad quarter it kills us for the rest of the game,” Shores said. In the Mira Mesa game, he cited a bad third quarter as a reason La Jolla fell into a hole that they had a hard time digging themselves out of.
Brandon Richmond, a midfielder and captain of the offense, spoke about how team members encourage one another to keep their heads up despite the setbacks early in the season: “We keep a positive attitude by working really hard at practice and working on constantly improving, looking forward to our first win.”
Duerr echoed his captain’s sentiments: “Our players continue to participate in practice with the same amount of enthusiasm and effort as they did their last.”
He identified the key role Richmond and Shores fill in the coaches-players relationship. “We lean on these two individuals to be the voice between our squad and the coaching staff.”
Key players on defense include Reid Martin, Thad Lewis, Jonathan Leyva and Shores. Midfielders include Mitchell Scott, Martin, Connor Usselman, Walton, Tyler Cook and P.J. Smigliani. Attack includes Troy Cummings, Tanner Watson and Alex Barry.
Said Richmond of teammate Martin, “Reid has worked at his offensive game, which has earned him some goals.” Richmond also mentioned his fellow captain, Shores, who he has seen improve in playing aggressive defense.