The Gulf Coast Sharks celebrate seconds after Christian Holland's golden goal gave them a 12-11 overtime win over Barron Collier during Friday night's regional playoff opener at Gulf Coast High School. GREGG HARDY/CSI
There are new kings of Collier County lacrosse, and they’re led by a Queener.
The Gulf Coast High School boys, with third-year coach and former Major League Lacrosse goaltender Brett Queener at the helm, did something Friday night that no other Collier County team had been able to in the postseason: eliminate Barron Collier.
It wasn’t easy, though. The host Sharks recovered after surrendering a 9-4 fourth-quarter lead to oust the Cougars from the regional playoffs with a 12-11 overtime win. Gulf Coast will play at Cardinal Mooney — an 8-4 winner over Canterbury — on Tuesday night in the regional semifinals.
“They’re a school that we consider a rival at Gulf Coast,” said Queener, who played for the MLL’s Boca Raton-based expansion team, the Florida Launch, from its first season in 2014 to 2016 (the team’s website also lists him on the 2017 roster, but he did not appear in a game that season). “… But you can’t really call them a rival until you beat ’em once.”
Gulf Coast senior Christian Holland, who netted the golden goal with 1:22 remaining in the four-minute extra session, was front and center after the game. After breaking away from a throng of jubilant teammates and fans, he gave full credit to his coach for putting the bite in the Sharks’ game.
“He came in and right away, it was all Queener,” said Holland, who began playing for Gulf Coast as a sophomore, also Queener’s first season. “His intense coaching style; he changes the game for us.”
Holland, who had a game-high five goals on the night, was asked to rate his relationship with Queener on a scale of one to 10.
“Eleven. I love that guy,” Holland replied. “He’s taught me everything I know.”
Trailing by five goals at the start of the final quarter, the Barron Collier program that, prior to this season, had never — yes, never — lost to a Collier County team since lacrosse became a varsity sport some 10 years ago began to surface.
Cougars coach John Sivillo made some tactical moves in the second half to get his team back in it. Chief among them was to free up Jake Scuderi — who had been jammed up and face-guarded as an attacker — by moving him to midfielder. It worked as Scuderi went off for several goals during the rally.
“The first half, I was cringing. I was quiet,” Sivillo said. “But I was trying to figure out what I could do to make it better, and we did those moves, and it worked.”
Jack Laterra completed the Cougars’ comeback with one of his four goals. All of a sudden, it was 9-9 and still 7:49 remained.
“Get back to what we were doing!” Queener shouted at his players from the sideline before the ensuing face-off.
Trace Davidson was listening. He scored one of his three goals on the night to put the Sharks back on top with 6:20 remaining. Holland notched his fourth goal to make it 11-9. (Also recording a hat trick for Gulf Coast was Chase Schroeder.)
Barron made its last stand, scoring twice in the final three minutes — capped by Jayson Andino’s dramatic goal with eight seconds left to force overtime.
“(Sharks assistant coach Mark) Woodruff said at halftime: We were up by five goals; we should expect them to make a run,” Holland said. “That’s what good teams do; that’s what rivalry games are about. … We knew they were going to make a run, and we just had to make the last run, and that’s what we did.”
While Gulf Coast is a young team that’s ridden a bunch of sophomores to get to this point (and it was sophomore Ben Jolly whom Holland said delivered a “great pass” from behind the net for the game-winner), Queener was quick to give credit to his seniors for being able to get over the Barron hump.
“Tonight it was senior leadership that made the big plays that won us the game,” Queener said, promptly throwing out the names of Holland, Will Hoops, Mihiel Martin and Anthony Butrico.
That last name is an interesting one. Queener said Butrico just started playing lacrosse two months ago and is already a Sharks captain.
Hoops came up from his position on defense to deliver a clutch performance in the face-off X against Jacksonville University-bound Bryce Cousins. Using a long stick, he denied Cousins on several face-offs.
“Hoops had his number,” Sivillo said. “He knew what to do. Our wing player wasn’t there right away, and they knew that if they just crashed (Cousins) and just get in on his hands … he likes the one-hand scoop … that kind of hurt him.”
Said Holland: “Will Hoops played a huge game on face-off. He did something he never did before, and I’m proud of that kid.”
Sivillo also credited Queener and Gulf Coast sophomore goalie Dylan Whelan for the Sharks’ breakthrough win. “Dylan was unbelievable,” he said. “Brett, his coaching was unbelievable. He’s teaching his kids well.”
Not only had the Cougars never lost in the playoffs to a Collier County team, they had never lost to one in the regular season until Naples edged them last month on a miraculous Hail Mary play in the final seconds.
Sivillo said the Cougars will be back.
“This isn’t it for us. No way,” he said. “I mean, people think it is. But if we keep on grinding and doing certain things in the offseason, we’re going to be successful.”
Queener was quick to slow down any talk of a torch being passed in Collier County.
“It’s season to season, game to game,” he said. “We won today, and so we get to play on Tuesday.”
There’s little doubt Barron will regroup next season. But you know that death grip the Cougars have had on the rest of the county … ?
“Not anymore,” Holland said.
Then he added, “We’ve known from the beginning of the season (that we can beat Barron). Our coach told us every game we’re better than this team. We just have to play like it.
“When we play to our ability, we can compete with anyone in this state. And that’s what we did tonight.”
Follow CSI on Twitter at @239CSI or like CSI on Facebook at facebook.com/CollierSportsInsider. Email Gregg Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org.