Having lost six of their last seven games — four of which were Columbia League contests — the HRV boys lacrosse team desperately needed a win during the league and regular season finale Monday at Wilson.
And while the Eagles (5-8, 1-4 CL) were able to defeat Wilson (7-8, 0-5) 11-6 to grab their first league win of the year, moving ahead of the Trojans, the boys held their collective breaths Tuesday evening to see how the playoff rankings shook out as other teams competed in their final games of the season. By the end of the night, it was determined that HRV had missed qualifying for the state tournament — by one spot.
HRV Head Coach Matt Luchsinger was frustrated by the brackets, particularly because the team finished the season with a No. 21 ranking. The top 24 ranked schools make it into the playoffs; however, teams receive automatic bids if they finish first or second in their conference, regardless of ranking, and those schools were able to bump the Eagles out of the tournament.
However, that does mean that HRV receives the top seed in the Cascade Cup — a tournament for the next 16 teams that didn’t qualify for the state tournament. The Eagles hosted the No. 16 La Salle Falcons (3-8, 0-3 Northwest Conference) Friday at 7 p.m. at Henderson Community Stadium (results not available at press time) in the opening round of the Cascade Cup. It is a rematch of the 2015 Cascade Cup final, which HRV won 11-10.
“Personally, I think everyone on the team would always love to make the playoffs, but you have to adjust,” Luchsinger explained. “Taking the number-one seed in the Cascade Cup is the next best thing we could do. We could take the Cascade Cup again. I think we could do it, and it would be the second time in three years.”
The Eagles often are on the cusp when it comes to making the playoffs. Last year, the Eagles qualified for the state tournament as a 17 seed, but lost in the first round. The year before that, they were a three-seed in the Cascade Cup. Luchsinger noted that it is difficult for smaller schools to qualify for the state championship bracket, saying he viewed the Cascade Cup “as a 5A championship.” Indeed, out of the 24 teams that qualified for the state tournament, only two are from 5A schools — Bend and Summit — while the rest are from 6A schools, as the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association does not separate 5A and 6A schools as the OSAA does with other sports. In the Cascade Cup, 10 of the 16 qualifying teams are 5A.
“I think Hood River is going to struggle a little bit until lacrosse becomes part of the OSAA,” Luchsinger said. “Once it becomes part of that, then Hood River has a chance to win state championships every year.”
Regardless, HRV will look to build off their Wilson win and gain momentum heading into the postseason.
“We needed it. We just came off a bunch of losses, so we definitely needed it,” he said. “It was a huge win; it boosted a lot of confidence.”
Wilson scored the game’s first goal, but Luchsinger said that “once we tied it up, we took the lead and ran with it,” as the team excelled at possessing the ball and being patient with their shot choices. Possession was more important than usual, Luchsinger said, as he had to sub Levi Glass in net, as starting goalkeeper Jhett Chrisman was out sick. Luchsinger said that Glass, a senior midfielder, likely hadn’t played goalie since eighth grade.
“He jumped into the cage and that changed our style of play as well. In essence, that helped our team, because our offense knew they had to help him out,” he explained, adding, “Levi Glass came up with 13 saves. He played very well and in my opinion, was definitely the MVP of the game.”
On offense, Steven Crouch led the team with six points, scoring four goals and recording two assists, followed by Jackson Lebsack (three goals, assist), Cody Wheat (three assists), Henry Barton (two goals), Bruce Ostler (two goals), and Andrew Gino (assist). Alex McAlpine had a team-high five ground balls.
The winner of Friday’s game will head to the Cascade Cup quarterfinals and play the winner of the first-round matchup of No. 8 Oregon City and No. 9 Newberg.