Palisades High School defeated Cleveland 16-9 at Valley College on November 14 to win the City Championship. This was the team’s eighth consecutive City title.
“They had two really dominant players; it was a solid team,” said PaliHi Head Coach Adam Blakis. “But we rose to the challenge.”
In the CIF SoCal Division II regional tournament, the Dolphins are seeded eighth, and face the number one seed Vista at Segerstrom [in Santa Ana] on November 22 at 2 p.m. The semi-finals and finals are the next day. Vista is the defending Division II Champion.
Last year Palisades was seeded second in Division III tournament and captured the championship by defeating California of Whittier.
“We had an easy time last year,” Blakis said, “They bumped us up this year – and are giving our team a little more respect.”
Overall the Dolphins were 9-3 and 2-0 in league. Before the season started, Blakis told Circling the News “We’re a young team. This will be a year of rebuilding.”
Competing in an easy league, Blakis provided his players with challenges by playing tournaments such as the Conejo Classic, where they reached the semi-finals and the Malibu Classic, which they won.
Then came injuries and concussions. “Oliver was hurt, Kian had broken ribs, a lot of players had to step up to fill the void,” said assistant coach Kirk Lazaruk, who explained that three players had suffered concussions during the season and two of those players, including goalie Dmitry Gorozhankin [who was instrumental in last year’s championship], were unable to come back.
“[Goalie] John Possman, a freshman stepped up and had 13 blocks in the championship game,” Lazaruk said. “This season was all about ‘Next Man Up.’”
That meant nothing was guaranteed this year. In the first half of the game against Cleveland, it looked like the title could go either way.
Palisades Maximo Speiser scored first and Marc Pryor add one to make it 2-0, but then Cleveland added three goals in quick succession and at the end of the first quarter it was 3-2 in favor of the Cavaliers.
In the second quarter, Cleveland added three goals, and Oliver Grant scored three, but at half the Cavaliers led 6-5.
Head coach Adam Blakis said, “They had one really top player, so we had Oliver cover him the second half so he couldn’t score.”
At the end of the third quarter, Palisades had fought back and were leading 10-8 In the fourth quarter, the Dolphins scored six and the final was 16-9. Speiser had six goals, Grant five, Pryor four and Sami Raskin one.
Individually and together, the Palisades team “Stepped Up” and the Championship was theirs.