The first weekend of May in Texas usually means a few things- the weather generally starts to get really hot, there are senior proms going on, but one thing is guaranteed…the four best lacrosse teams in the state of Texas will meet up to determine a champion. This year’s bracket promises to be a good one as there has arguably never been so much parity between the four teams that will be competing for the ultimate prize. Ask any coach around the state and you’ll likely get a different answer as to who is the favorite and why. The “Big Four” in Dallas (Highland Park, Dallas Jesuit, St. Marks, and ESD) have arrived and will be ready to replay some epic clashes from the regular season. Without further ado, here are our previews of the 2013 THSLL State Tournament Semifinals.
#1 Dallas Jesuit Rangers (14-2) vs. #4 Episcopal School of Dallas Eagles (14-6)
Dallas Jesuit and Episcopal School of Dallas meet up for the second time in just 15 days in what should be another thrilling encounter between the rivals. On April 19th, the teams played to a one-goal game, with Jesuit coming out on top 8-7 on the road. The Rangers have had the Eagles number the last few years, with Jesuit winning the last four contests dating back to 2010. Don’t let the numbers fool you though, as the Eagles have arguably their best squad ever, and they’re fresh off a huge win in the Super Regionals over previously undefeated #1 team the Woodlands.
Dallas Jesuit’s record may not be perfect but it’s not far from it. Their two losses are to #3 Highland Park by one goal and to Gilman, a prep school in Maryland ranked 9th in the nation at the moment according to Laxpower.com. Currently ranked #22 in the nation, Jesuit will be coming into the state tournament with a lot of talent and wont be lacking confidence. Led by Maryland-bound All-State goalie Dan Morris, the Rangers defense has been stifling allowing just 4.38 goals per game, good for second best in the state. What’s more, they haven’t given up more than eight goals in a game in all in-state competition this year.
Episcopal School of Dallas is coming off an impressive week of play in the district and regional playoffs. After defeating top-ten team Coppell 9-6 in the district playoffs, they dispatched a strong Bowie team 15-4 before becoming the first and only team to beat the #1 Woodlands team 11-10 in the regional final. Their offense is arguably the best in the state, averaging 13.30 goals per game and scoring ten or more goals in all 14 of their wins this year.
By the numbers:
• Last meeting: 4/19 Dallas Jesuit 8, ESD 7
• Goals Per Game: Dallas Jesuit- 12.25 (4th) ESD- 13.30 (2nd)
• Goals Against Average: Dallas Jesuit- 4.38 (2nd) ESD- 7.20 (10th)
• Goal Differential: Dallas Jesuit- +7.88 (2nd) ESD- +6.10 (3rd)
• Strength of Schedule- Dallas Jesuit- 3rd ESD- 5th
Dallas Jesuit wins if:
The Rangers will win if their defense and goaltending comes out and plays their game. Their defense was the key to their victory over ESD the first time they played, holding ESD to seven goals – well below their 13.30 goals per game average.
Episcopal School of Dallas wins if:
They can turn this lacrosse game into a track meet. Jesuit is so tough to beat in six vs. six lacrosse that the transition game will be key to getting goals that could make the difference. If ESD can find a way to put some away in transition they’ve got a good chance to win.
#2 St. Marks (16-3) vs. #3 Highland Park (14-2)
In a rematch of last year’s state championship, arch rivals St. Marks and Highland Park meet up again to renew what has become one of the best in-state rivalries over the years. Much like the Jesuit-ESD matchup, St. Marks and Highland Park will be re-matching for the second time in less than three weeks. Back on April 18th, St. Marks defeated Highland Park 8-4 in score that surprised many, who figure it would go down to the wire.
St. Marks comes into the game red hot, riding a nine-game win streak that includes wins against the top ten teams in the state in each of the last eight games. The Lions won the SPC Tournament last month, taking out Episcopal Houston, Houston Christian, and Episcopal School of Dallas by an average margin of victory of seven goals in each game. Their three losses this year are by only seven combined goals, with two of the losses to top-five competition in-state (Jesuit and ESD) and to the #1 ranked team in Colorado (Arapahoe).
Highland Park has looked equally impressive throughout the course of the season. They generally save their best for last, as was evident last year when they barely made it to the playoffs but rode a late season wave of momentum to yet another state title. This year’s team only lost two games, the first to the #1 Woodlands team by a goal and the second to St. Marks. At one point they were riding a 13-game win streak that included victories over some of the best teams in the mid-atlantic region. They defeated both of the other semifinalists earlier in the season.
By the numbers:
• Last Meeting: 4/18 St. Marks 8 Highland Park 4
• Goals Per Game: St. Marks- 10.32 (10th) Highland Park- 10.38 (8th)
• Goals Against Average: St. Marks- 4.42 (3rd) Highland Park- 4.81 (4th)
• Goal Differential: St. Marks +5.89 (4th) Highland Park- +5.56 (6th)
• Strength of Schedule: St. Marks- 7th Highland Park- 4th
St. Marks win if:
St. Marks wins if their defense continues to dominate the way it has during this nine-game win streak. They held Highland Park to just four goals in the first meeting and will need a similar effort again Saturday.
Highland Park wins if:
They find their postseason stride and their offense finds a way to produce. Their offense struggled a bit in the month of April, and it will need to be at full force against arguably the best defense in the state.
If you can’t make it to Plano to catch all the action, be sure to visit Texasheatlacrosse.com for a live in-game blog with the latest, up-to-the-minute updates!