The youngest sport in the Moore League has downsized for the 2021 season, but local schools have successfully put together enough teams to keep Moore League lacrosse on the field for a shortened season this spring. With Lakewood High tentatively planning to add lacrosse starting next school year, the sport should continue to grow in the Long Beach area, and local coaches are looking forward to seeing their teams compete, despite the unusual circumstances.
This year’s boys’ lacrosse season will be a three-team clash between Millikan, Poly and Wilson, with four games played against each opponent. That means these teams will become very well-acquainted over the five-week league season. Cabrillo and Moore League fill-in Ochoa High from Pico Rivera were both unable to field teams this season, leaving it as a three-team race.
Millikan was off to a strong start last season before the shutdown, and head coach Tom Sutfin is excited about a number of players on this year’s squad. Among the veteran leaders will be Collin Hatton, who provides a physical presence at 6’2”, 210 lbs. He will help lead a solid junior class that also includes Enzo Nunez, Ryan McLaughry, and goalie Cooper Robinson. Sutfin is also expecting contributions from Jacob Nget, Andrew Mo, Sean Clark, Nick Guzman and Andrew Salvador.
He also likes his group of freshmen, who have proven to be talented beyond their years in the early going. Bennett Hreschuk had a goal and a couple assists during the Rams’ opening game of the season, and classmates Koby Thurmond, Justin Linares and Tyler Gerritson have all shown great potential.
“The league will certainly provide some competitive action,” Sutfin said. “I know Poly and Wilson have not been sitting on their heels. They have huge potential and it’s going to be an exciting season. Expectations have been, for me, a moving target this year. It has really been a roller coaster for me as well as the players. While it’s felt like more downs than ups, this team has shown me day in and day out their commitment to the team and Millikan. It is inspiring to see their perseverance given the myriad of challenges we’ve faced this year.”
Over at Poly, alum Milan Moliere has taken over the boys’ program and has a solid, cohesive group this year. The Jackrabbits will be led by a trio of standouts, including Je’Shawn Walke, who had five goals in Poly’s first league game against Millikan last Friday. Christopher Nolan-O’Brien is a face-off specialist who also poses a scoring threat in transition. Senior goalie Kyle Johnson will also be a key contributor for Poly and Moliere is high on what he brings to the squad.
“Kyle can save just about anything you throw at him while also running the defense,” Moliere said. “Kyle also isn’t afraid to leave the crease to run the ball out to the attackers. He is a very active goalie and an amazing leader.”
Moliere also believes that the team’s chemistry will be a big advantage for the Jackrabbits this year, which will help them get back into playing as a cohesive unit again.
“Everyone gets along and trusts each other and that is key to a successful team,” said Moliere. “The boys have great fundamentals and work ethic that’ll see us doing great things this season. The only weakness is shaking off the rust of not playing for so long due to the shutdowns, but we’ll quickly overcome that.”
The Wilson Bruins are also looking to overcome the limited preparation, but head coach Glenn Styron is confident in his coaching staff and has some talented players in the team.
“We feel that the Bruin defense is quick, active, smart and can hang with the other teams in the league,” Styron said. “The ultimate goal is to provide these players with skills as they grow and progress into their future.”
The Bruin defense will be led by Brock Cruz, a hard-working and coachable player for the Bruins. He’ll help protect goalie Noah Bruce, who Styron says has excellent vision in front of the net. Ethan McMahan and Conner Fellows have both stepped up as leaders for the team, and Flynn Nulty and Eli Vance are expected to shoulder the scoring load for Wilson this season. Also be on the lookout for newcomers Harrison McElwain and Corday Jones who have already shown potential.
The Moore League girls’ lacrosse season will be limited to just two teams, with Millikan and Wilson set to square off four times this year. Cabrillo, Ochoa, and Poly were all unable to field teams for this season.
Millikan will be led by junior captain Delaney Haubert, who leads by example with her stellar work ethic. The Rams also have high expectations for junior Estrella Xelhuantzl, who suffered a major knee injury last season but is back and excited to score her share of goals.
“Everyone is working hard to be better than they were last season,” said Millikan head coach Ariana Estrada. “My goal for this season is to build mental toughness on and off the field. A quote I like to go by is, ‘The last thing we can afford right now is to make excuses.’ We’re inexperienced at some spots, and we have injuries, but so does everyone; that’s the way it is.”
Their lone league rival this season will be Wilson, where head coach Natali McCaslin has a young squad that hasn’t gotten much practice time in.
“Due to COVID, we were unable to train with a full team up until very recently, making it challenging to run through rules and plays,” McCaslin explained. “We have also been unable to practice on a field with lines until the first day of competing, but considering the circumstances, our team adapted quickly and have kept their spirits up!”
The Bruins have a handful of standouts on the roster including midfielder Angie Membrano who is an active presence up and down the field. Wilson’s attack will be spearheaded by Grace Littleworth with fellow attacker/midfielder Grace Lewis in support. Charlotte Hahn will captain the defense which is bolstered by the strong play of Caitlin Fellows.
Millikan will host Wilson on Monday at 4 p.m. in the Moore League opener.
Story photo courtesy of Jennifer McMahon