Three lacrosse teams planning for playoffs

Valencia's Donovan Bolanos (17) pushes West Ranch's Hunter Anderson (1) as he tries to maintain control of the ball during a lacross game at West Ranch on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

For three of five Santa Clarita Valley high school lacrosse teams, this year’s postseason has become a reality.

While the teams have varying degrees of playoff experience, the objective for each one remains the same: Get the ball and keep the ball.

Here’s a look at how the playoff-bound girls and boys teams could do in their respective games:

West Ranch boys

The Wildcats enter the playoffs with the most postseason experience of all SCV lacrosse teams.

West Ranch’s Jacob Gandara (10) catches a pass from a teammate during a lacrosse match against Mira Costa on Monday, April 10, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

This time around, the No. 16-seeded Cats (11-6 overall) take on the top-seeded Palos Verdes High at Palos Verdes (14-4) today at 3 p.m.

In five years as a program, West Ranch has reached the playoffs four times but has never surpassed the first round.

“Just to prepare correctly,” said Wildcats attacker Teo Domic of what he’s learned from his playoff experience.

“The biggest thing is watching the correct film, knowing who their guys are, who to attack defensively and offensively. As well as how to pace yourself throughout the game.”

After watching two sets of film at Monday’s practice, West Ranch has become familiar with the Sea Kings’ aggressive ball defense.

“That’s one thing we struggle with offensively,” Domic said. “With that being one of their strong suits, we really need to focus on holding on to the ball, slowing the pace.”

It begins at the circle.

“It starts in the faceoff,” said Domic, a St. Joseph’s University commit. “We’re going to try as hard as we can to get balls so they don’t get it and burn the clock.”

Valencia boys

In their first trip to the postseason, the Vikings will be competing in the LA Boys Postseason Invitational, a postseason tournament added by the LA Chapter of US Lacrosse.

They’ll face St. John Bosco of Bellflower (8-7) on Wednesday at home at 7 p.m.

Valencia has struggled to play a complete game of late but is hoping to change its mindset.

Valencia’s Donovan Bolanos (17) takes a shot on goal during a lacrosse match against Village Christian on Friday, April 28, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“We just cannot seem to come out very strong and take over the game from the beginning or if we come out strong at the beginning of the game, we get lazy by the second half and slow down until reality hits,” said Brendan Barry, an attacker.

Valencia (7-8) is also focused on winning faceoffs, which are handled by Jake Cashman and Clayton Byers. In the team’s most recent game against Village Christian, Byers was 9-for-14 in faceoff wins.

Consistency is the theme for the Vikings. Despite a looming postseason game, practice routines have stayed the same from stick work to half field scrimmages to running plays.

“We are just going through with what we’ve been doing all year at practice and it’s worked out pretty well so far,” Barry said. “…Some kids are working on the game as individuals differently, but as a team, we’re going through the same routine.”

West Ranch girls

At practice on Monday, the Wildcats (8-10) had a pow-wow at the beginning of practice to get set up for their second playoff appearance at No. 5 Oak Park today.

“We said that draws would be really key,” said attacker Audra Kim. “Whoever wins the ball controls the game. And these past few games, we’ve been clicking on draws.”

Kim herself won 67% of draws in the Cats’ previous game against Simi Valley, a 15-3 win. On the season, she’s had 74 total draw controls in addition to 61 goals and 31 assists.

She was a major contributor to a West Ranch squad that jumped up from the No. 17 to the No. 12 seed this past week.

They’ll face a challenge in the Eagles (8-7), who defeated the Cats earlier this season 17-10.

“The last time we played Oak Park, it was an ‘L,’” Kim said. “I was out with a head injury. Since then the team and I have been rallying together to get a seed in playoffs. A higher seed that we deserved.”

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