Park City boys and girls lacrosse teams, both champions, compete in season’s final game
On Monday, the two Utah champion lacrosse teams faced off at Dozier field – the Park City Lacrosse Club boys varsity team and their opponents, the Park City Lacrosse Club girls varsity team.
Together the teams had 17 Utah High School Activities Association all-conference and all-state players, three U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans, and a combined record of 32-1. The two teams were gathered for the club’s third annual Girls vs. Boys Game – the first that pitted state champions against each other — to celebrate their successful seasons.
The game is played using girls rules, and the two teams trade sticks.
In previous years, the game (which the girls had always won), was played before the state championship tournaments. However, it had been pushed back this year to prevent injuries until after the state titles were safely in hand. Having won both the Division 1 (girls) and Class A (boys) championships on Saturday at Skyline High School, it was time to celebrate with some friendly competition.
Home game announcer Nick Seifert, father of girls varsity player Parker Seifert, introduced the two teams to a crowd of families and fans, who sat under mostly sunny skies on the bleachers at 5:30 p.m.
He then tried briefly to cajole the All-Americans (Beau Pederson, Shaye Henderson and Connor French) into breaking from their formations on the field to sing the national anthem, but when no one budged, he gave up, announced the rules and started the game.
The game had everything expected of two all-star teams playing a game of pickup. There were players trash talking on the sidelines, loud appeals to the referee (girls varsity coach Zach Sadoff), dramatic calls by said referee, and plenty of low-percentage trick plays.
At one point, French, the varsity boys goalkeeper, ran coast-to-coast with the ball and scored, but the goal was deemed illegal in the girls game, and was waved off.
“Gotta go out 20-0,” French said. “Gotta get that W.”
The boys’ season
Early on, the boys team had struggled to establish its offense, and the boys had started the season with three close games: a 7-5 win over Brighton, a 5-4 victory in overtime against American Fork, and another 7-5 win over Juan Diego.
Pederson said the American Fork game was a wakeup call.
“We were upset we had to win in overtime,” he said. “We thought we should have handled it better.”
At that time, he said the team, which relies on several young players, was still finding its identity. The brush with loss helped pull the team together.
“After that we got to work and kept getting better and better,” he said.
From then until the playoffs, the Miners won every in-state game by at least six goals (and lost no out-of-state games), including the playoff games leading up to the semifinals.
At the state tournament, the boys beat Juan Diego 10-8 in the semifinal game at Corner Canyon High School on May 16, then faced Brighton in the finals on May 19.
French said the team was excited to play the “cross-town rivals,” though the game got off to a slow start. Both teams had good defenses, and at halftime the score was tied at two apiece.
Pederson, an attackman who led the team with 64 goals, said the Brighton defense did a good job containing him. Sophomore Dylan Bauer was able to score three goals in the second half of the game which, along with one goal from Pederson, put the Miners solidly in the lead. The Miners grew their lead to 6-3. Brighton drew the game within a single goal but were unable to take the lead. The Miners won 7-6 and secured their first championship since 2013.
Pederson said the win was one of the best feelings of his life, and overall the 2018 season was the best of his career.
“But also there was also relief that in my fourth year, my final game, we finally get to win the championship,” he said. “First time in four years; it was amazing.”
Before the girls vs. boys game, French said he was still riding a high from the victory.
The girls’ season
Unlike the boys, the girls could hardly have started stronger. They demolished their early-season opponents, earning a goal differential of 39 over the first four games.
Herriman dealt the team its only loss of the season, beating the Miners 12-11 at home on April 24. That day, the team said it would learn from the loss, and after defeating American Fork 12-3 in the Class A semifinals, the Miners had a chance to prove what they had learned.
Junior goalkeeper Courtney Kaufman said the Miners took the field determined to win.
“I think that win (over American Fork) got us pretty excited that we got a couple more days to spend together as a team,” she said. “And I think that kind of brought us together even more – going into State to finish what we started, to not get that far and lose.”
But after winning the draw, the Miners lost possession to Herriman, which promptly scored.
“We knew from then on we were going to have to fight for every ball,” attacker Gabby Nixon said.
But Nixon said a gritty game played into the Miners’ training, which had been focused around perfecting the unexciting but necessary aspects of the game like recovering ground balls and playing preventing the other team from clearing the ball.
By halftime, the Miners led 6-4.
“After a while we settled down and had some fun,” Kaufman said, adding that the team’s offense started finding the right shots to take. “Everything was flowing for us.”
The Miners went on to win 10-7, securing the team’s fifth consecutive championship.
“This will be our second class graduating that’s won state all four years,” Kaufman said. “But you just take it year by year. Every year is different: A different group of girls, a different team, different challenges we have to overcome.”
In the end, the boys were true to their word. By halftime they led 2-0 and though the girls closed the gap to a single point, the boys won 5-4 — not that it was a heated game.
With 4 minutes left on the clock, smoke from the grills, laden with the smell of hamburgers and hotdogs, had started drifting over the field. Most of both teams’ starters had retired to the sideline to play with Dodger — boys varsity defensive coach Brian Bilzi’s new golden retriever puppy, who he had picked up from the airport an hour earlier.
When time ran out, the players took the field for a brief celebration. Then, with nothing left to win, they went to get plates of food and a spot on the lawn by their teammates.
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With over 90 teams and 1,100 athletes, the Triple Crown Fastpitch World Series returns to Park City this week 16U and 18U tournaments.