By GREG MARTIN
The Vashon Vultures defeated the Liberty Lacrosse Club, 4-2, at the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association championship game on Saturday, May 25, to claim the 1A/2A title.
This season was Michael McMillan’s first as head coach, after serving as assistant coach for the previous four years. He credited both the Vultures’ offensive and defensive players with the team’s success.
“We relied on a strong defensive team all season, which served us well in the playoffs,” he said. “Combine that with some of the strongest attacking players in the state, and you have an amazing team.”
Winning the state title was a remarkable finish to a season that could have turned out much differently.
The Vultures took a pre-season hit in December when senior Cal McMillan suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear playing drop-in soccer. That could have cost him his whole senior season, but he pressed the doctor for a recovery plan and returned at the end of April for the last two regular season games and playoffs.
It was good to get him back because senior co-captain Kiryk Mozeleski went out with a bad concussion in the April 19 game against South Kitsap. His repeated question was “Did I score?” “Yes, twice” was the answer, but he was out indefinitely.
Vashon went 13-1 in the regular season, its only loss to 4A Peninsula, and the team came back two days later to beat 4A Gig Harbor. Final regular season point tally was Vashon 169, opponents 45.
This gave them home field advantage in the playoffs and an important first round bye. Mozeleski got released from concussion protocol before the first playoff game; Coach McMillan agreed to keep his playing time to a minimum.
The playoffs began on May 18 when the Vultures met Sehome at VHS stadium and beat them 16-8. Senior Paris Brown dominated the game with five goals and three assists. Mozeleski had one goal and two assists, and Cal McMillan had two goals and one assist. Mason Rice had a long pole goal. Senior Jake Carman had perhaps one of the highlight plays of the season with a no-look interception at a full sprint.
Next up Vashon met Orting on May 22, again with home field advantage. Orting was down seven goals in the first quarter. Over the course of the game, Mozeleski had six goals; Brown had five goals and an assist; Yury Coocoules had three goals and two assists. Fin McClure was dominant on the face-offs, shutting down Orting’s All-Conference face-off star and contributing a goal and an assist as well. The entire team contributed, including freshmen Ryder Jones, who had 17 goals on the year, with solid play to help carry the day and allow other players to rest. With the decisive 18-6 win, Vashon was on to the state championship for the first time since 2005.
Assistant coaches Alex Craighead, Tristan Carbery and Nicky Wilks were on that state title team, reinforcing confidence in this year’s players. Defender Nick Amundsen from class of ‘13 assisted as well, coaching the defense named “Joe’s Garage” after senior Joe Giglierhi. Giglierhi and senior co-captain Rice were dominant in defense all year. Many times Rice stole the ball and made bruising runs upfield to get the ball to the Vultures’ offense. Junior Mitchell Nye in goal was also solid. His save percentage — 66% — was 16% higher than the next best in the Vultures’ division. He set the bar high and kept the Vultures in key games, including the state championship.
That game started as the Pirate soccer team’s state title championship was just ending — all on a cold, wet late May day.
Liberty had stifled and stomped the Vultures’ ambitions last year in the quarter-finals, allowing just three offensive possessions in the first half. This year’s game started similarly, but Liberty managed just two goals in the first quarter, including one that deflected off a player and dribbled into the goal. The second quarter was 0-0, a defensive display without equal on both ends.
The question was what halftime adjustments Coach McMillan would make. Vashon lacrosse coaches emeritus, Charlie Rosenberry and Mark Paridon, were at the game and both agreed that the Vultures’ planned offensive plays were not working against this defense and that the team needed to score some goals in transition. What Coach McMillan actually said to the boys was, “Get out there and have some fun!” In the third quarter, the opportunity arose, and Brown came up the middle hard, faked left, and went right, pounded off the second defender and ripped a shot into the net.
The second goal was by Jake Carman with one second left in the quarter. Suddenly Liberty was on its heels.
The fourth quarter started and Vashon again scored two goals. Brown scored a carbon copy goal; then Coucoules scored another on a nice feed from Carman. This made it 4-2 Vashon. Liberty was not giving up, however, and managed four decent attacks.
Joe’s Garage was not welcoming any visitors, but Liberty did manage one desperate goal. A key play near the end was freshman Joe Barnes using his quickness to drive into a carwash of midfielders and come out with possession, giving Vashon the final few seconds they needed to run seconds off the clock and maintain the lead.
— Greg Martin is the father of lacrosse player.
The Vashon Vultures were one of two island teams to win a state title on May 25; they were joined by the Vashon High School Pirates soccer team.
At press time, a parade, from Ober Park to the Vashon Theatre, celebrating the achievements of both teams was slated for about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, May 30, according VHS Principal Danny Rock. The parade will step off when traffic from the 6:15 p.m. ferry is passed. However, alternate parade plans are also circulating. Those who attend should confirm parade details via email and social media before heading out.