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May 26, 2023

Live Oak boys lacrosse team makes program history, aims to continue surge next year

It was a season to remember for the Live Oak High boys lacrosse team, which made program history by winning its first league championship and Central Coast Section playoff match. 

The Acorns’ top highlight was no doubt their riveting 9-8 win over Mitty in their playoff opener on May 10. Playing a tough Monarchs squad for the second time this season, No. 10 seed Live Oak (16-3) received goals from seven different players, a testament to their talent and depth. 

Ben Ledwith and Collin Fisher scored two goals each, while Luke Richey, Alex Lewis, Bennet Nishikawa, Colby Allen and Kenyan Castro scored one goal apiece. The Acorns were seemingly in control, up 9-7 with 4 minutes, 9 seconds remaining, when No. 7 Mitty scored to make it a one-goal game with 3:50 left. 

After the teams took turns trading possession time, Live Oak, which was already playing a man down, was called for a penalty that put them two men down for the final 30 seconds. 

However, the Acorns’ solid team defense held Mitty in-check the rest of the way, setting off a wild celebration at midfield after the final horn sounded. 

“It was really a battle out there and seeing these kids come together, the leadership from each one of them, even in the tough moments, the adversity, and finding a way to win is huge for us,” Acorns coach Gavin Herr said. “They just wanted it and it’s so awesome for our first win as a team in the CCS playoffs and to get it that way against a good team like Mitty.”

The teams were playing for the second time this season, with Live Oak winning the first contest, a 10-9 triple overtime thriller on March 3. The Acorns took the rematch as well behind the play of goalie Blaine Barnes, who made several high-level plays and finished with 15 saves. 

“Blaine was an absolute wall today,” Herr said. “The kid stood on his head and was absolutely electric. He’s unshakeable and does not get worried, does not freak out, no panic in him. You watch him clearing today and he had every clear you can have while under pressure. I loved it, an absolutely great effort.”

Ryan Forbis and Nolan Ledwith picked up five ground balls each. Tanner Holeman had a terrific takeaway at midfield with nine minutes left in the second quarter, and Richey delivered a beautiful assist on a Fisher goal shortly thereafter. 

With just over three minutes left in the first half, Fisher scored on a nice wrap-around goal off a pass from Nishikawa, who possessed the ball for nearly a minute to set up the score. Nearly every single one of Live Oak’s goals were spectacular in scope. 

On one play, Holeman forced a turnover before delivering a pass to Nishikawa, who ripped a shot from 20 yards away to make it 7-4 with 4:44 left in the third quarter. Allen made a tremendous play in assisting Ben Ledwith’s goal midway through the fourth quarter, weaving by defenders to the left corner sideline before feathering a pass to Ledwith, who was in front of the Mitty goal and scored in emphatic fashion. 

Allen also had a nice skip shot for the team’s final goal, making it 9-7 with 4:09 to go. The Acorns had six penalties totaling seven minutes of penalty time, giving Mitty several chances with the man advantage. However, the Acorns played well when they were a man down, though it always makes for a precarious situation.  

“I was frustrated with the disparity, the ratio [of Mitty having more man-advantage opportunities], but I also recognize our boys do play a physical brand of ball and I expect to get penalties,” Herr said. “That’s how the chips fall sometimes and you just have to battle through the adversity.”

Because Live Oak ran roughshod over inferior opponents in the Blossom Valley Athletic League, it benefited greatly from playing tough non-league competition. However, the Acorns lost to Stevenson 12-11 on April 24 and then to Serra by two goals a week later. 

“There were a lot of questions and I think we answered them [against Mitty],” Herr said. “We struggle playing with teams that aren’t challenging us as much as we need, so playing Serra and Stevenson, those were huge for us to dial back in and a real wakeup call for the boys and important for them, too. Obviously, next season we’re looking forward to building up the schedule a little more, making sure we have more of these Peninsula league teams.”

The Acorns, who saw their season end to a powerhouse Sacred Heart Prep squad in the CCS quarterfinals on May 12, plan to keep improving and going deeper into the postseason. Holeman was one of a handful of freshmen who made an impact, including Dylan Fisher and Sam Ellingson. 

Junior Lukas Marcheschi played tough defense and is expected to be a top returner for 2024. Herr pointed to the team’s mental toughness and talent as key reasons why the program is in excellent shape going forward. 

“We graduate 10 seniors, but the next class coming up is strong so there’s a lot in the future,” Herr said. “The team was tough. It’s seeing the bull coming and standing your ground, not being scared, not having the fear in them. I could not be more proud.”

Kenyan Castro, seen here in the Acorns’ match vs. RLS, was one of several standouts on the team. Photo by J. Natividad.
Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected].

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