By Jeremy Balan
It was a long time coming, but St. Ignatius took advantage of its first postseason birth by clinching the inaugural West Catholic Athletic League championship with a 16-10 win over Bellarmine of San Jose on Friday at St. Ignatius.
The Wildcats (19-2), a perennial lacrosse power in Northern California, have played as an independent until the WCAL started its first league season this year.
“It’s one of those things where 10, 20, 30 years from now, these guys are going to look back on this and say, ‘you can’t take our name off that trophy, we won it,'” said St. Ignatius Head Coach Chris Packard, who was dripping wet after a celebratory Gatorade bath. “It feels great and it’s bitter-sweet because it’s over, but this is what we’ve strived for, for 10 years. We now have a league championship.”
The final score might appear decisive, but late in the third quarter it appeared that Bellarmine would be the first WCAL champions.
The Bells (16-5) had an 8-6 lead with under a minute remaining in the third, but two quick goals from St. Ignatius’ Bobby Gray and Rob Emery tied the score at 8-8 heading into the fourth and began a string of nine consecutive St. Ignatius goals. The Wildcats outscored Bellarmine 8-2 in the final frame.
“That’s not the way we wanted to finish the last quarter of the last game,” said Bellarmine Head Coach Brad Lipscomb. “We pride ourselves on being a four-quarter team. They broke our backs in the fourth quarter and we lost our swagger and didn’t get it back.”
Bellarmine held Emery, St. Ignatius’ standout midfielder, scoreless until his goal with :22 remaining in the third quarter, but the Virginia-bound senior scored two more times in the fourth to fuel the Wildcats’ rally.
“It’s a good way to finish off my high school career. You can’t ask for more than the school’s first WCAL championship,” Emery said. “We know we’re a team that can come back, so we felt comfortable and knew once we got the ball rolling, it was down hill from there.”
Bellarmine denied Emery the ball throughout and double and triple-teamed him when he did get possession. Emery also had three assists to go along with his three late goals.
“He is such a stud,” Packard said of Emery. “It’s so difficult for a high school kid, who is that talented, to not get going early in a big game. The fact that he stuck to it and persevered is just phenomenal.”
While the Bells were shutting down Emery in the first half, all of St. Ignatius’ offense came from junior attackman Jack Bodine, who had all three goals for the Wildcats in the first half and added a score in the third quarter to finish with a game-high four goals.
“In the last game of the year, when you get a contribution like that from an underclassman, as a coach, it feels great,” Packard said of Bodine. “He’s been working all year and is a scrappy guy. He carried us in the first half and that was key.”
All of Bodine’s goals came on quick release shots off precise passes from Matt Emery, Dax Cohan and J.W. McGovern.
“We just have so many talented players on offense, so the focus is on other people. That allows guys to move throughout the offense and make great passes,” Bodine said. “I was assisted on every goal and it was a lot of catching and finishing. On those close-in ones, you just can’t think. The pass is there and you just have to put it in the back of the net.”
The win on Friday was the Wildcats’ third win over Bellarmine this year, and capped an undefeated WCAL season.
“We’ve been a talented program for the past couple of years and it’s nice to have an opportunity to hoist a championship,” Bodine said.
B – 8:03 – Kevin Weigand, assist John Langlais
B – 7:46 – Austin Pridham, assist Dono MacLean
SI – 3:56 – Jack Bodine, assist Matt Emery
SI – 1:29 – Bodine, assist Dax Cohan
B – 3:24 – Pat McMahon, assist Tim Jacob
SI – 0:38 – Bodine, assist J.W. McGovern
SI – 9:08 – Bodine, assist McGovern
B – 8:30 – Anthony Varni, assist Pridham
B – 8:06 – Pridham
SI – 7:51 – McGovern, assist Rob Emery
B – 6:47 – Tim Ruder, assist Tim Jacob
SI – 4:50 – M. Emery
B – 4:34 – AJ Vonmasserhausen, assist Ryan Le
B – 2:56 – Weigand, assist Le
SI – 0:32 – Bobby Gray, assist Nick Alimam
SI – 0:22 – R. Emery
SI – 11:01 – R. Emery
SI – 9:29 – Bodine, assist Gray
SI – 9:09 – McGovern, assist Harrison Mallen
SI – 8:09 – Gray, assist R. Emery
SI – 5:26 – Alimam
SI – 4:36 – Will McKee, assist Spencer Rosen
SI – 3:21 – Cohan, assist R. Emery
B – 2:50 – Jacob
SI – 2:40 – R. Emery
B – 1:32 – Ruder, assist Weigand