Maverick Boys' Lacrosse makes a big run to the SPC Championship game fueled in part by St. John's Lacrosse legends and lore.
When the 2014 St. John’s Mavericks Boys’ Lacrosse season ended last April, St. John’s could hang their hat on big wins, upsets, and telling their story for the seasons to come. The mantra of “mush” was the emotional fuel to help finish tight games. This phrase was taken from one of our early story time tales about Susan Butcher, a four-time winner of the Iditarod sled race. In 2015 the Mavericks went to the well with last year’s “mush” chants, and other stories to boost St. John’s to the 2015 SPC title game, an unlikely destination based on early season losses, injuries, and a trend in the losing column.
St. John’s Mavericks 2015 Varsity Boys’ Lacrosse team had realistic goals for the upcoming season due in part to Michael Newar ’15, a four-year Varsity player, being out for the season with an injury. While the typical attrition of players from a graduating class are replaced by underclassmen, the 2015 season was atypical in that many of the returning players missed one game to a whole season due to injury. When we seemed to get our boat on plane, another injury would tip the ship. St. John’s lost three one-goal games to THSLL South opponents. Two of those were in overtime including a loss without ten Maverick players in the line up. All three of those losses were on Caven Field where the pain of the losing was exacerbated by the celebration of winning by our opponents. In two of these games it was their program’s first win over St. John’s, the oldest high school program in the Lone Star state.
Without a win in our THSLL D1 district and lopsided losses to Greenhill and St. Mark’s in early non-counter games, the only Texas victories we had to show for were against Lamar, St. Andrew’s and St. Mary’s Hall, all D2 THSLL teams. St. John’s went 1-2 on our California trip.
While losing ground in the THSLL regional playoff picture, we were 2-0 in SPC, giving us some success to build on. The local SPC counter games were upon us right after spring break…Houston Christian, Episcopal, and Kinkaid. In the past the mojo from the spring trip always carried over into the first week back. Two starters were out against Houston Christian, and like the early season losses, we could not finish off the Mustangs on Caven Field. When and how could we close out tight games? The answer was Episcopal, past and present.
Maverick Boys’ Lacrosse tells stories in practice. Story time takes place in the beginning of each practice during static stretching. Most of the stories are about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. From time to time lacrosse stories get told and for the week leading up to the Episcopal game we focused on the glory days against the Knights. In 2005 St. John’s trailed EHS on Lee Field 9-8 with 4 seconds remaining. Chris Root ’06 passed the ball from x to his brother Timmy Root ’08 who hit the ball with the shaft of his stick causing it to ricochet into the goal with one second on the clock. In overtime Timmy assisted Chris for the game winner.
Reed Daniel ’10, and Zach Gaitz ’10, now assistant coaches on the varsity, told the tale of “Silky Wilkey” (Patrick Wilkey ’09) who scored on a Daniel assist in overtime to defeat Episcopal on Caven Field to advance to the 2009 City Championships. In order to get possession on the last clear of the game, St. John’s back up goalie, Krishnan Rajagopalan ’10 made a save and ran out a shot for the turnover. Or what about the sixth seeded 2003 St. John’s team that finished off the first seeded Knights on Simmons Field. Scotty Caven ’04 was part of that win.
What would the story be for the 2015 game at Episcopal? St. John’s was still missing a captain starter Peter Cordill ’15. Would the 2015 St. John’s players be adding this game to the Episcopal list of Maverick lacrosse lore?
St. John’s went out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Sloan Crady ’15, who also served as our stalwart at the face off x. After going into the half with a 5-4 lead, St. John’s and Episcopal traded two goals each giving the Mavericks a 7-6 advantage to start the fourth period. St. John’s and Episcopal would score two more, but EHS got a late goal to tie it up and send it into overtime.
Eight players found the net for St. John’s in regulation. Crady, Trey Lewis ’16, Paul Labanowski ’16, Will Bickham ’16, Hayden Simmons ’17, Michael Cowan ’16, Charles Sampson ’18, and Wheeler Gibson ’17. Team defense, led by goalie Stephen Wang ’15 was responsible for the opportunity to win the game. Wang totaled an unofficial 23 saves on the night including 4 in overtime before St. John’s Charles Rogers ’15 cleared the ball to set up a last play for Gibson to get the game winner, and give the program a new story to add to the St. John’s lacrosse library.
Kinkaid re-runs were part of the next week’s story time tales. Notably the 2014 win with William Trieschman’s ’14 18 saves. In 2002 another St. John’s goalie, Ben May ’02, would steal the headlines. Knotted at 5-5 in overtime against the Falcons in the 2002 Houston City semi-finals on Lee Field, May cleared the ball to midfield and was left alone. The former attackman made a sprint to the cage on the north end of the field and stuck a left-handed shot for the game winner.
When Kinkaid showed up on Caven Field on April 7, 2015 it was also the Queso Cook-off. In front of our largest home crowd, the Mavericks fed off the energy of the fans. A queso stirring pre-game dance was spontaneously started by Labanowski. The rest was history. Cordill, who missed the Episcopal game the previous week, stuck two top shelf shots in the fourth quarter to seal the 8-6 win over the Falcons. Gibson led all scorers with four goals for the Mavericks. Cordill and Charles Dorfman ’16 led the team with 5 gb’s apiece. When Episcopal defeated Houston Christian the same night, St. John’s was awarded the number one seed in the SPC South.
The story line for the SPC tournament would include a pay back from the first two losses in the season (11-4 to Greenhill and 15-2 to St. Mark’s), and a previous story about a surfer named Kelly Slater. As the story is told, Slater would sit on the beach prior to his competitions and see the word “no” drawn in the sand. He would wait until “no” turned into “yes” before he got on his board to compete. We adapted his “yes” mantra with SPC to come up with “YESPC.” On Friday, April 10 the Mavericks faced off against Greenhill in the first round winning 13-6 to advance to the semi-finals against St. Mark’s, a team St. John’s had not defeated since 2005. Against St. Mark’s Wang was up to his usual tricks making saves and the half time score was 1-0 St. Mark’s. The Mavericks finally got on board in the third period on a man up play. St. John’s went 3 for 4 on extra man plays and Wang stifled the Lions’ 26 shots with 10 clean saves. The final was 5-3 St. John’s. Charles Alcorn ’15 recorded a game-high 3 assists.
The Mavericks made it to the SPC championship game against ESD, an opponent they had defeated in 2012 to reach their last championship game. While the Mavericks made a go of it by tying the game in the second period 3-3, ESD had too much firepower and pulled away for a 10-4 win.
Looking back on the run…beating EHS in overtime, Kinkaid the following week, and getting redemption on Greenhill and St. Mark’s, these Mavericks have something to hang their hats on. They were floundering midway through the season and found a way to come together. They never gave up and were rewarded with well-earned wins. They finished strong, and most importantly, their story is now part of a legacy and lore to help build more Maverick lacrosse moments for seasons to come.
Sam Chambers- Athletic News