The Hart boys lacrosse team always has an enthusiastic celebration after a win, but after beating Valencia, the Indians seemed to rush the field a little faster, hang on the net a little longer and hug each other a little harder.
Because on Thursday at Hart High School, the Indians beat the Vikings for the first time in program history, winning 9-4.
“It feels great to finally beat them,” said Hart senior Jason Nunez. “I’m proud of my team. We pulled it off. We’re all focused, we’re in the game, we tried hard. It was just them and us the whole time.”
A win wasn’t promised for the Indians, however, as Valencia held them off for the entirety of the first quarter while scoring one goal for itself, courtesy of Evan Dean.
The Vikings (1-5 overall, 0-2 in Foothill League) were hoping to snap a three-game losing streak and came out strong to open the first frame.
“I think that we kind of shocked ourselves a little bit and we came out hot,” said Vikings coach Mark Bell. “And we rode that momentum for a little while, and then once they started putting goals in, we kind of lost the momentum.”
The Indians (7-1, 2-0) started to pile on the goals in the second quarter. Jacob Montez scored one, then Will Knight and Nunez tacked on two of their own to head into halftime with a 4-3 advantage.
Nunez netted the final goal of the first half, ripping a shot from the top of the circle.
“On offense, we realized that we got to set up the ball, give our defense more time to rest so that really helped and, I mean, we’re all focused,” Nunez said. “We just want to win. It was Valencia, so it was a win. It was a must.”
The Indians carried the momentum into the third quarter to score two more goals, one from Nunez with 10:21 left in the quarter and one from Ethan Dos Santos with 1:29 to go.
“I’d say we more of a third-quarter team,” said defenseman TJ Ferrigno. “We come out first, second quarter we’re kind of slow, kind of figuring it out and once we’re not groggy anymore we kind of start rolling. One guy gets a goal and then two guys get a goal and we just start rolling.”
Kyle Wiggins opened the fourth quarter with a goal, then Montez potted another for himself three minutes later with the Vikings’ goalie out of position.
Dean scored with five minutes left in the game. He finished the game with four goals and was a hassle for Hart defenders to contain throughout the afternoon, orchestrating plays from the “X” position behind the net.
“I play club with him, I know he’s the guy that is going to score most of their points,” Ferrigno said. “He can do it by himself or he can do it with his team, so we knew coming into it that he was going to score, but it was really just trying to limit how much he scored.”
Dos Santos finished off the game with one final goal with 2:42 left on the clock.
The Indians handed the Vikings their fourth loss in two weeks. Valencia lost 19 players to graduation last season and only return two seniors this season. However, Bell is excited about the prospect of rebuilding from nearly scratch.
“They’re leaders on this team so they kind of set the pace and the other guys follow in their footsteps,” Bell said of his returners. “They follow what they say and they are permeable as far as putting in plays and listening and operating in a system, which is great because in previous classes we didn’t really have that too much.”
Valencia has the chance to rebound at Redondo Union on Tuesday at 6 p.m. while Hart is looking to pick up its seventh straight win at Simi Valley on Saturday at noon.
“We’re just taking it game by game,” Ferrigno said. “Making sure we’re studying our opponent, really knowing what’s going to happen on the other side and just be ready to go when the game comes. Running, making sure that we’re conditioned. Our goal is to try to run every team because we have the numbers to do it.”