After toiling through exhausting fall conditioning, night long practices, and close finishes, the Jesuit varsity lacrosse team had finally arrived on the stage they had been pining to return to since the end of last season, the THSLL Division 1 State Playoffs.
In the second round, having a bye through the first, Jesuit faced off against Kingwood. Entering the game, the Rangers “wanted to come out and put together a really good game going into the final four,” said senior attackman Jason Myers. Despite a turnover on the first possession, Jesuit stepped on the gas early and never let up in what turned into a “make it take it type of game,” commented defenseman Hayden Clouse ’14. Kingwood hardly crossed the half field line in the first five minutes of the first quarter with Jesuit maintaining possession for the majority of the quarter. The Rangers’ possession time translated into points, allowing Jesuit to gain a substantial lead of 10 – 1 by the end of the first quarter. Towards the end of the second quarter, Jesuit began to send in its second and third stringers and continued to bombard Kingwood with goals. The game ended in a 20 – 2 rout with the Rangers advancing to the semifinals.
Jesuit took on the familiar opponent,the Woodlands, in the semifinals. Going into the game, the veteran squad was wary of an upset, having “lost the past two years in the semis and [not wanting] that to happen this year,” said Clouse. After getting off to a slow start, a problem that has plagued the Rangers all year, they began to regain their composure and fired off four goals to trail by a score of 4 – 6 going into half time. Coming out of the break, Jesuit hit the ground runing, not allowing a single goal in the second half and scoring nine of their own. One of the difference makers for the Rangers was senior midfielder Lee Belland, who scored a staggering five goals, “one of which was one of the best shots I had seen all year,” stated Myers. The game ended with a final score of 13 – 6. The Woodlands gave Jesuit their best shot, as would Jesuit’s next opponent and longtime rival, ESD, in the State Championship.
This moment has been a long time in the making for Rangers, especially the seniors, who have been chasing this opportunity since their freshman year, when they lost to Coppell in the championship game. To make things more interesting, it was ESD who knocked Jesuit out in the semifinal last year to end Jesuit’s season. This year, the Rangers were hoping to return the favor and finally hoist the highly coveted State Championship trophy.
Jesuit jumped out to a 1 – 0 lead, maintaining the lead until the end of the first quarter. But ESD, unwilling to go out without a fight, answered the Rangers with two goals of their own, to make the score 2 – 2 by the end of the half. “We knew that both teams were much different than the last time we played each other” in the regular season, when Jesuit beat ESD 9 – 4, said Myers. “We thought they would try to shut off Lee [Belland] and not let him get the ball, but [as] it turned out they didn’t. Basically, we knew it would be a fight because both teams were tired from the day before, and in a game like that, there isn’t really much you can do to prepare. You just have to come out and play really gritty.” Entering the second half time, “everyone was positive because we felt that we played a bad first half and were still tied with a very good team”, commented Clouse.
Jesuit and ESD traded punches though the third quarter, to make the score 5 – 3 with ESD in the lead. Then, in what would be a disastrous series of events in the fourth quarter for the Rangers, ESD increased their lead. Being forced to play a man down, after receiving a penalty, Jesuit allowed ESD to score. Then after a face off, ESD put yet another ball in the back of the net, to making the score 7 – 3, shifting the momentum in ESD’s favor. Jesuit did attempt to mount a comeback, scoring one goal, but ESD quickly stomped it out by scoring two more goals. The game ended with a final score of 9 – 4 and a Jesuit loss.
When asked about the defeat, Myers commented, “We were all devastated–especially the seniors. We feel like we should have four rings, seeing as we have beaten the eventual state champion in the regular season four years in a row. It was really tough to take.” Clouse stated that, “There were a lot of emotions about losing the game and it’s hard to say exactly how everyone felt. We all fought hard to win that game and gave it our all. There is no one to blame because we all lost as a team, and if we had won, we would have won as a team.”
Though the seniors may be feeling the pain of defeat now, it will recede, and even if it does not, they will always have the memories they acquired during their time as members of the Jesuit lacrosse team. “Playing lacrosse at Jesuit has been one of the best experiences of my life … I believe that every senior on that team would be proud of what we have accomplished,” said Clouse. As for Myers, “I love all the seniors and I’ll never forget all of the stuff we’ve gone through … I’ll also never forget beating ESD in the regular season this year in front of so many fans, St. Mark’s sophomore year in front of just as many, and pretty much all the big games that a bunch of people came out to watch. I love Jez Lax and I hate that we couldn’t get a championship, but I won’t ever forget my teammates and the big games.”