Barron Collier's Jacob Kuhlman (6) fires a shot on Community School goalie Everett Rowe during the first half of Tuesday's District 20 tournament game at Barron Collier High School. Kuhlman scored three goals in the Cougars' 14-0 win. GREGG HARDY/CSI
It may have looked like the Barron Collier boys lacrosse team had some extra weight on its shoulders during Tuesday’s District 20 tournament semifinal against Community School of Naples.
But it wasn’t because the Cougars were concerned about the mediocre regular season they just concluded and subsequent chatter that the gap between them and their Collier County rivals was decreasing — dramatically.
Turns out, that added weight on their shoulders came in the form of a giant chip.
Hearing talk about how their reign over Collier County could soon be coming to an end, the Cougars made the Seahawks objects of their wrath. They whipped CSN, 14-0, in the first of two semifinal games at Barron Collier High School.
Naples, the district’s top seed, crushed Lely, 24-4, in the nightcap to set up a Thursday night grudge match that comes a few weeks after the Golden Eagles notched their first-ever win over the Cougars in miraculous fashion.
“They were (ticked) off. They’ve been (ticked) off for about a week,” Barron Collier coach John Sivillo said about his players, referencing a recent CollierSportsInsider article that spotlighted Collier County’s top four lacrosse programs — Barron, CSN, Gulf Coast and Naples.
Senior Jacob Kuhlman, who had three goals and an assist in the win over CSN, admitted he and his teammates wanted to send a message Tuesday.
“Yeah, we definitely did, especially when we lost to Naples and then seeing what the head coach at CSN (Richard Lewton) said — (that) they had a chance with us. We knew they didn’t, and we had to come out and show it.”
The final score had to be surprising to some, considering Barron Collier finished the regular season with an 8-8 record. The Cougars lost their final two games to state powers Oxbridge Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas, 16-4 and 17-3, respectively. Earlier in the season, Barron won 5-3 at Community School in a game that was called at halftime due to weather.
Looking back, maybe that abbreviated game against the Cougars — although close — gave the Seahawks a false sense of security.
“We knew this was going to be a really big game playing Barron at their stadium,” said CSN senior goalie Everett Rowe, who made several great, if not spectacular, stops to keep Tuesday’s final score from being even more lopsided. “We tried our best to get ready for them from what we had seen, but they came out strong — stronger than we expected, I think.”
Sivillo did not see the final score as a surprise.
“If our guys stick to our game plan, that should be the score,” he said. “I’m not knocking CSN because they’re a great team. Richard’s been doing it for a really long time. I love Rich, we go way back … and you know, he’s working hard with that team. They’re a smaller school.”
Lewton was happy with how his Seahawks started the game. They controlled the ball early but could not cash in with goals.
“After the first three minutes, we just didn’t control the ball,” said Lewton, whose team ended its season with a 14-8 record (a big turnaround from the sub-.500 mark it posted last season) that included overtime wins over Naples and Bishop Verot, which finished second in District 18.
Barron Collier senior and Jacksonville University recruit Bryce Cousins won 12 faceoffs to help keep CSN on the defensive. Cousins also had one assist.
Other key contributors for the Cougars included Jake Scuderi (three goals, three assists), JJ Andino (three goals, one assist), Henry Leach (two goals), Jack Laterra (one goal, one assist), Adam Suid (one goal, one assist), Will Asher (one goal), Jacob Davis (one assist), Jace Etchechury (three groundballs) and Joseph DiPascale (two groundballs).
With the Seahawks out of the way, Barron Collier will turn its focus to Naples in what could be the second of a three-game gauntlet with the trio of programs in Collier County looking to unseat the Cougars. A win over Naples would set up a showdown with District 19’s champion, the Sharks of Gulf Coast High, which beat Immokalee 17-4 on Wednesday night. Gulf Coast lost 10-9 at Barron back on March 8.
While adhering to the cliché “one-game-at-a-time” approach, Kuhlman admitted that “we want to play (Naples and Gulf Coast). We want to play them bad.”
Naples shocked Barron Collier on March 28 with a come-from-behind, 12-11 victory. An 80-yard pass from the Golden Eagles’ Alex Lykins found the stick of Christian Drouin, who wheeled around and whipped a goal from in close with three seconds left, setting off a wild celebration.
A one-in-a-thousand play?
Kuhlman and fellow senior Andino agreed: “Yes.”
“They just tossed it up,” Kuhlman said.
Said Andino: “Lucky pass, lucky score.”
Quickly, though, Andino relented a bit.
“Great pass by Alex Lykins, though,” he said. “I gotta give it to him. Eighty-yard bomb. I can’t believe he caught it and scored, though.”
Of course, a big reason Naples is where it’s at is junior goalie Zeb Fuller. Opposing coaches will tell you Fuller is by far the best goalie in Collier County and one of the best in the entire state.
Andino knows Fuller will likely play a central role in how Thursday’s district title game plays out.
“They wanted that (first) game. Zeb wanted that game,” Andino said. “I think he had 28 saves or something like that. They wanted it more than us that night, but come Thursday I think we’re going to come to play.
“We want Naples again … and they know it.”
Email Gregg Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CSI on Twitter at @239CSI or like CSI on Facebook at facebook.com/CollierSportsInsider.