Two years removed from a state championship, Mountain Ridge lacrosse is rebuilding after it missed the playoffs last year. Head coach Derek Bahler has his team focused on a return to winning.
“Our goal coming into this season is getting back to the playoffs after just missing last season,” Bahler said. “We have a great group of kids that are working hard, and if they keep working, they will get there.”
After splitting their first two games of the season on the road, Mountain Ridge’s Mountain Lions opened their home schedule by battling back for a 12-10 victory over Phoenix Arcadia’s Titans March 6 at Cactus High School.
“Big, big win for these guys,” Bahler said. “The way they kept fighting after falling behind early, this was fun to watch.”
The game against Arcadia opened with the two teams working the ball around and getting a feel for the match-up. Mountain Ridge gained the first opportunity to score only two minutes into the game, when Brady Wijbrandts stole the ball, raced up the middle and fired a shot that was stopped by Arcadia goalkeeper Jarrett Van Arsdall.
Less than a minute later the Mountain Lions scored, when Kyle Schreyer took a pass in front from Kaleb West and fired it into the back of the net.
“We got on the board first by attacking the net and moving the ball around early,” Bahler said. “Then we made some mistakes and had too many turnovers.”
Leading 4-2 after the first quarter, Arcadia opened the second quarter with two goals in the first minute and extended its lead to 7-3 before a time out was called by Bahler.
“I told them we needed to stop turning the ball over and pass the ball around,” Bahler said. “They knew what they were doing wrong and they made the adjustments. I didn’t have to tell them anything really.”
The Mountain Lions’ Kaleb West broke through with eight minutes left in the second period when he took a pass from Seth Read along the side of the net and slipped it past Van Arsdall.
Less than a minute later, West struck again, when he took a pass from Wijbrandts and backhanded a shot into the net.
After Arcadia extended its lead to 8-5, the Mountain Lions’ Jaden Aberra, Wijbrandts, Read and West scored to give their team the lead, with 1:57 left in the first. Arcadia’s Tucker Loftin tied that game at nine at halftime.
“We had too many turnovers and we just couldn’t win a face off in the first half,” Bahler said. “We just discussed making the changes and the boys doing what they know in the second half.”
That they did, as the Mountain Lions’ defense came out strong in the second. They held the Titans to one second-half goal by Kieran Carr in the first five minutes, before Mountain Ridge goalkeeper Caleb West took over.
Mountain Ridge goalkeeper Cole Houser stopped Arcadia’s 13 shots in the final 19 minutes of the game as Mountain Ridge’s defense shut down Arcadia’s offense by pressuring them and keeping them from attacking the net.
“(Houser) is playing strong right now and has been working hard, and he is leading this team and was very vocal and got everyone psyched up before this game,” Bahler said. “He is always big, big personality and I believe he can be the best goalie in the state.”
Mountain Ridge broke through in the fourth quarter when Wijbrandts picked up a loose ball and raced down the middle of the field, bouncing a shot past Van Arsdall for what proved to be the game winner.
Arcadia’s Loftin led all scores with six, while Mountain Ridge was led by West’s five and Wijbrandts’ three. Bahler knows his team is going to need to move the ball around as they prepare for their goal of a playoff run.
The Mountain Lions improved to 3-1 after topping Catalina Foothills 6-4 March 8.
“We need to keep working and our goal is to make the playoffs after just missing last year,” Bahler said. “This is a great group of guys, and they will keep working and aiming towards that goal of the playoffs.”