DRAPER The Juan Diego Catholic High School Soaring Eagle lacrosse team battled from behind to claim its first state championship title at Brighton High School May 19.
The Soaring Eagle team was down 7-4 with just over 10 minutes left in the game when players mounted an impressive comeback to tie the score, then get that last winning goal.
"With 52 seconds left in the game, freshman Matt Graney scored the winning goal to beat Alta High School 9-8," said Patrick Lambert, Juan Diego coach. "The final game was an absolute thriller and our boys just never quit. That was one of the defining factors of this team, they always knew they were a very good team and everyone trusted that the person next to him would do his job and play his position. It was a lot of fun to watch."
The state championship game "was unbelievable," said Jeff Tack, Juan Diego assistant coach. "Patrick told the team, ?Respect your opponent and leave it all out on the field; you can come off the field and can honestly say you've done your best. The result is going to be the result.' When they were behind a couple of times during the season, we told them, ?You know how to throw and catch, just play.'"
Juan Diego lost two games during the regular season, each by one point; one to Alta and one to Brighton High School.
"Our games were thrillers all season long, and to go a whole season with our total losses totaling two points led to a great year," said Lambert, adding that they beat Brighton 6-4 in the state semi-finals.
"We gave up the least amount of goals of any team this year. Our goalie, Erik Gronseth is an absolute brick wall, and our defense never let teams get comfortable. We were phenomenal offensively starting two juniors, attack players Tommy Maddox and Luke Graney, and freshman attack player Matt Graney. Teams didn't know how to defend our talented attack, and one or two of those three would have a fantastic game."
In an April 17 game against Copper Hills High School, Juan Diego won 21-6. Matt Evans, Copper Hills coach, complimented Juan Diego's team in a letter, saying, "I have tremendous respect for Coach Lambert. He always puts together an extremely competitive team. Your program completely dominated my team?yet they were respectful throughout the game."
Also during that game a Copper Hills' player was injured. Evans wrote that he was impressed that Curtis Buck from Juan Diego, who was involved in the play, later called to check on the player's condition.
Lambert said his team captains seniors Erik Gronseth, Jeff Malone, Tyler Buck and Mitchell Rall were excellent leaders and kept everybody motivated.
"They kept the team working in the off-season and would come early to practice to set up the field," said Lambert. "It's a special year when you know your captains are fully committed. Practices were fun. Games were a blast. The bus rides were great. It was just one of those seasons where I'm speeding to get to practice because I can't wait to see the boys. We also teach them life lessons and do as much training as we can to help them communicate, learn about hard work and succeed on and off the field. They are true champions and an incredibly deserving group of boys to have the season end the way it did."