Lacrosse team building solid foundation

This moment has been building for some time.

The Sierra Canyon boys lacrosse team is entering a critical juncture in its trajectory as a powerhouse program.

Sierra Canyon will transition from the Gold Coast League to the Mission League and see if it can maintain its high standard of success in one of Southern California’s premier lacrosse leagues.

Coach Mario Waibel said he is eager to see where his program stands, especially after graduating his most impressive senior class that featured seven high-profile seniors.

“We have a lot of new faces. It’s one of those years where we will see who we really are,” Waibel said.

Sierra Canyon is coming off an impressive 10-5 campaign against an array of top-tier competition, capturing its seventh consecutive Gold Coast League crown before suffering a first-round playoff loss to St. Margaret’s in a brutal draw.

Sierra Canyon opens its season on Feb. 15 at Westlake, kicking off another loaded nonleague campaign that also includes Agoura, Los Alamitos, Faith Lutheran, St. Francis and Nevada powers Centennial and O’Dea.

Its Mission League opener will be March 7 against St. Francis, starting a gauntlet that includes matchups against Harvard-Westlake, Crespi, Loyola, Chaminade and Notre Dame. Loyola traditionally ranks as one of the most formidable programs in Southern California.

“We’ve played these teams before, but the stakes have not been as substantial,” Waibel said. “We’re going to have to elevate our game and prepare for league in a different way.

“We’ve never missed the playoffs, and we don’t intend to do that this year. We’ve got to go out and beat some Mission League teams.”

Waibel said he will lean on Swarthmore-bound senior defender Lucas Kearney, senior midfielder Carter Lee (headed to Brown University for academics) and junior midfielder Mickey Petraitis to set the foundation in the new Mission League landscape.

“Lucas has been the pillar of our defense the last three or four years, an aggressive and cerebral defender. He’s one of those rare gems you get in a program,” Waibel said. “Carter has been a big guy for us defensively, and Mickey is one of the best shooters in Los Angeles.”

Waibel said the team has been coming together nicely leading up to the opener.

Senior midfielder Brad Conners and senior attacker JT Nichols will provide valuable experience and consistency.

Junior attacker Lance Matthies and junior midfielder Parker Chodorow are also key returners.

Sophomore defender Huntington Cooper and junior midfielder Carmel Crunk are also expected to make major contributions.

Junior goalkeeper Logan Waibel, the coach’s son, will be tasked with replacing All-American goalkeeper Jake Pillsbury, who is now at Oberlin College.

Sierra Canyon also has the benefit of having two faceoff specialists in seniors Aeson Tripodis and Will Gaeta, a luxury most programs do not have.

“We just graduated one of our best and largest classes, and it’s going to open the door for others to prove themselves,” Waibel said. “We are actually in a really good position. We’ve got the talent. Now we’ve just got to step up.”