For about 15 minutes during every practice, the Spartans work on a specific fast-break play.
Those hours of practice paid off Wednesday night.
After rallying late to force overtime against league champion Snohomish, the Spartans won the face off and executed their fast-break play to win 14-13 in front of large home crowd under the lights of Bob Larson Stadium.
“That fast break was about as picture-perfect as you could ask for,” head coach Garry Hartzell said. “We’ve had some other ones work this season, but this one I think was ran to perfection. That was is the way it’s written on paper.”
Quickly and deftly, Tyler Rich won the faceoff and flicked the ball to Trevor Simpson, who found a cutting Sam Delich to finish with a blink-of-an-eye goal.
The crowd erupts and the Spartan dogpile grows.
“This is one of my top three games I’ve been in, for sure,” said Rich, who finished with a game-high five goals. “An overtime game in a great atmosphere. Amazing.”
The intensity was palpable from the opening faceoff. Stanwood jumped out to an early lead eager to avenge a 15-11 loss April 24, but the rival Panthers fought back to take a 9-8 lead at halftime.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” Hartzell said. “We had some self-inflicted wounds with penalties that gave them the momentum back.”
Down 12-10 late in the game, the Spartans reeled off three quick goals to take the lead only to allow Snohomish to find the equalizer with about a minute left. Each goalie came up with a huge save to keep it knotted at 13 and force sudden-death overtime.
“If someone had never seen a lacrosse game and watched this game, I think they'd be hooked,” Hartzell said.
Delich said he won’t forget the game anytime soon.
“It’s the most fun game of my career,” said the junior, who scored twice.
Jackson Houston added a hat trick, and Simpson and Roman Gabriel each tacked on a pair of goals.
“The boys were definately sore the next day,” Hartzell said. “It shows me they gave them all they had. It was a battle.”
On Friday, the Spartans hosted Seattle Prep at Haller Middle School in Arlington for a nonleague game to close out the regular season. Though Stanwood fell 11-5, the experience gained from a brutal schedule should come in handy when the playoffs start Friday at Stadium High, Hartzell said.
“We played a tough group of teams this year in our nonleague schedule,” he said. “They all made the playoffs with good seeds. When you play these higher-caliber teams, you’re going to be more situations where, even if you fail or you lose, you learn things that will pay off later.”
In the first round of the playoffs on Friday, Stanwood (6-3 in league, 10-6 overall) travels to take on a 7-2 Stadium squad that’s played six fewer games than the Spartans.
“I think that’s an advantage to us,” Hartzell said. “We have more game experience.”
Delich said that no matter who the opponent is, the Spartans will be ready.
“I feel like we’re clicking,” he said. “We want to keep having fun.”