There is still yet to be a Foothill League girls’ lacrosse season without the West Ranch Wildcats at the top of the standings.
West Ranch won its third straight league title on Tuesday, after a 16-6 win over the defending co-champion Valencia Vikings. This is the first year the Wildcats will be outright league champs, meeting coach Leesa Chelminiak’s and the team’s preseason goal.
“‘No Co’ was our goal this year,’” Chelminiak said in a phone interview. “We started saying that at the beginning of the season. We were not going to win that championship with anyone.”
The Cats (9-7, 6-0) answered the call in their regular-season finale and posted the program’s most lopsided win over Valencia (6-9, 4-2) in four years.
West Ranch took control of the game quickly and outscored the Vikings eight goals to three in each half. Freshman Lauren Lamb led the Cats with five goals and an assist to cap off her spectacular inaugural varsity season.
Seniors Maya O’Grady and Madison Chan followed with three-goal nights. Reigning league MVP Allison Hoffman finished with one goal and three assists.
West Ranch’s defense was ready for the “No-Co” game and delivered. The Wildcats held Valencia to its lowest scoring output in a league game in two seasons.
Junior Victoria Lee led the Vikings with a hat trick and one assist.
“My defense is on fire,” Chelminiak said. “Shout-out to my defenders, Ella Thompson, Olivia Bartholomew, Emma Liao, Jessica Schreier and Bailey Borkowski. Those five girls this year have made a difference and they do not get enough credit. We don’t win without holding teams to fewer goals and that doesn’t happen without a great defense.”
Besides the goalie Borkowski and Schreier, the other three defenders were originally midfielders who have stepped into different roles for the better of the team.
“What’s amazing about my defense is, most of them are not defenders, they’re midfielders,” Chelminiak said. “They’re learning new roles. These girls stepped up and sacrificed the goals and stats to do what’s best for the team. That’s a true teammate.”
Sacrificing offensive stats was an issue early in the year for West Ranch. The team had a tough preseason schedule and entered league play with a 1-5 record. Eventually the Wildcats adjusted to one another and began putting the team first.
“We have struggled to work together as a team,” Chelminiak said. “We were thinking too much about stats and goals. We learned by midseason that stats don’t mean anything without W’s.”
This season saw the freshman Lamb score 63 goals, while the sophomore Hoffman went over 100 career goals in her young varsity career.
Chelminiak has seen her team come a long way from the offseason and hopes to see the same incline in the playoffs next week, where the team could potentially rematch with teams that gave the Cats several of their early losses.
“We started out really great, then we went through a little reflection time,” Chelminiak said. “I can’t even describe it. If we could’ve reversed our schedule somehow, we would’ve had the chance to go undefeated. I hope we see one of those teams in playoffs.”
Valencia and West Ranch head into the Division 2 playoffs next week. The Vikes will host Yorba Linda on Wednesday at 3:15 p.m.
The Cats notched a bye and will await the winner of Beckman and Newport Harbor. West Ranch will host the winner on Friday at 3:15 p.m.
“All I’m hoping for in the playoffs is teamwork,” Chelminiak said. “Just one word, that’s all I need. If we continue to play as a team, I don’t need anything else.”