Yorktown senior Cason Liles controlled the faceoff, maintained possession down the field and scored his first goal of the season late in the first quarter of Thursday’s 6A North region quarterfinal contest against South County.
Liles’ goal led to cheers from his teammates. Liles’ faceoff dominance throughout the contest, however, helped give the Patriots a historic achievement to celebrate at the end of the night.
The Yorktown boys’ lacrosse team defeated South County 13-6 at Lee High School in Springfield, securing the Patriots’ first trip to the regional semifinals in program history. South County entered the contest with a 15-1 record and averaging 14 goals per game, but thanks to Liles’ faceoff dominance and a strong defensive effort led by sophomore Conor Shears, junior Timothy Aldinger and sophomore goalkeeper Mason Pollack, the Patriots limited the Stallions to their lowest goal-scoring output of the season.
“It’s huge,” Liles said. “We came out here with a chip on our shoulder. I think we were just so hyped up and so ready to play this game. None of the seniors wanted their season to end. I couldn’t be prouder of my team right now.”
Yorktown junior Alex Balser scored the game’s first goal with 9:25 remaining in the opening quarter and the Patriots never trailed. Liles’ first goal of the season extended Yorktown’s lead to 3-0 with 3:21 left in the opening quarter.
“My No. 1 goal was just to get as much possession for my team as [I could],” Liles said. “We knew we had to keep the ball away from their middies --- they have some outstanding middies. Our goal was just to get the ball and I was so happy I was able to do that for my team.
“… I think momentum changed on that third goal --- I scored my first goal of the season and I think the whole team just went crazy. I think that was just a momentum change for us. We really knew that we were going to kill it this game and we were just going to play our hearts out.”
Yorktown led 7-2 at halftime. South County goals by Austin Fitzmaurice and David Krein cut the Patriots’ lead to three midway through the third quarter, but Yorktown scored six of the next seven goals to pull away.
Yorktown head coach Greg Beer said experience gained from the Patriots’ loss to Langley in the Conference 6 championship game on May 23 helped the team focus against South County. Yorktown held a second-half lead against the Saxons before losing, 10-9. Beer said the Patriots got away from what was working and Langley was able to grind out the victory. Against South County, however, Yorktown continued to maintain possession, thanks in large part to Liles’ faceoff dominance, keeping the ball away from the Stallions’ dangerous midfield duo of David Symmes and Kevin Quigley. The Patriots limited Quigley to two goals while shutting out Symmes.
“[Liles] was the difference,” Beer said. “We did very well on faceoffs and that was the difference tonight, I believe. Other than that, I thought we were pretty even. We were able to control possessions and … sort of limit their offense, considering how much firepower [South County has] between Symmes, Quigley and the rest of those guys.”
Yorktown coaches had Shears defend Quigley and Aldinger defend Symmes. Pollack had 10 saves for the Patriots.
“This is the best we’ve played all year. [We played a] complete game,” Beer said. “Holding South County to six goals, it’s insane. With the firepower that they have, I’ll tell you right now, I didn’t see that coming in.
“… [Mason Pollack is] so technically sound, he doesn’t get rattled. He might give up a soft goal, [but] it doesn’t bother him. He has what goalies need --- he doesn’t think about the past. It’s done. He goes on to the next play.”
Eight different Patriots scored at least one goal. Balser, Shears, Charlie Tiene, Nico Pollack, and Kyle Harwood each scored two goals. Liles, Alec Turner, and Quinn Lyerly each scored one.
Tyler Alexander scored two goals for South County.
Symmes praised Yorktown’s defense, but said South County might have been guilty of overlooking the Patriots.
“No one was outright saying, ‘Oh, yes, easy game, just take it off, we’ll just coast through,’” Symmes said. “No one was saying that, but I think maybe, subconsciously, we weren’t taking this game as seriously as we should have. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, though.”
Yorktown improved its record to 15-4. The Patriots, who defeated Oakton in the opening round on Wednesday, will travel to face Robinson (14-3) in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4.
South County finished the season with a 15-2 record and a Conference 7 championship.
“I’m proud of the way my guys played,” first-year South County head coach Dale Nalls said. “Going 15-2 on the season, that’s an impressive season. Obviously, we had our sights set on a bigger prize than going 15-2, but I think South County is a relevant state championship contender. We just didn’t play like it tonight.”