MISSION VIEJO — This one's for Moose, indeed.
Michael Keasey scored the go-ahead goal with 10:46 left in the game, goalie Michael Ortlieb made four saves in the final wild two minutes and the Corona del Mar High boys' lacrosse team won its first U.S. Lacrosse CIF Southern Section championship, 7-6, over Palos Verdes.
The victory capped off a dream season at 24-0 Saturday at Mission Viejo High.
All the CdM players wore light blue shirts underneath their jerseys that read, "This one's for Moose," as in Warren "Moose" Mix, father of head coach G.W. Mix, who passed away May 4.
"They wore those shirts when he was sick in the hospital," Mix said. "They've been wearing it ever since."
There was certainly some inspiration, as CdM ended the game on a 7-2 run and came back from a 4-0 deficit.
"It's one of those things we said before the game, where one of the things that separates us from Palos Verdes is we've had to defend a lead, get the lead back and we've always been able to find a way," Mix said. "Like true champions, the kids found a way, but it wasn't easy. Our kids were better when it mattered today."
Ortlieb stoned the Palos Verdes offense when his team needed him the most. He made four of his 11 saves with less than two minutes left, three with less than one minute left. With 11 seconds left, Ortlieb made the play of the game, leaping high to make a jump save on Jake Macer. Ortlieb made his last save, a straightaway stop, at the buzzer, which set off a wild scramble in celebration.
"It's stressful, but we got it done," Ortlieb said. "It was mentally draining. It's my senior year, I didn't want to leave anything out on the field."
Mix added he liked how his goalie stepped up after allowing five goals in the first half and just one in the second, combined with good defense by Matt English and Connor Cruse, among others.
"We have one of the best goalies in the country," Mix said. "He struggled in the beginning. The real Michael Ortlieb showed up in the last three quarters. That's what championship goalies do. They make big plays in big moments."
As for Keasey's goal, one of three, he raced from behind the net and quickly fired his hard shot past Grant Cigliano, who made 11 saves and was absolutely tough to score on in the first half.
"I got lucky and got a short stick," Keasey said. "I threw a hesitant move on one of their defenders and went right at the goal. We were also down at Huntington Beach in the second round [of the playoffs] and we basically said the same thing we said then. We decided to step up. We thought we had good chances against [Cigliano], he was pretty tough … during the last couple minutes, I was thinking, 'Please make a stop.' Michael came up big for us."
Casey Mix, coach Mix's son and Moose's grandson, scored two goals, one that cut a Palos Verdes lead to 5-4 with 6:16 left in the third quarter. His other goal tied it at 5 just 40 seconds later.
"I would imagine my Dad would be pretty proud of his grandson, that's for sure," Coach Mix said. "We did a nice job of chipping away at it. At halftime, I told our team that we had 24 minutes left in our season. We couldn't afford to let any slip away."
And the Sea Kings sure did not.
Jack Ortlieb, Michael's younger brother, and Brett Nelson each scored one goal.
Palos Verdes' Tony Romeri and Zack Fixen both scored two goals. Johnny Romer and Jake Macer both scored one.