They're going to the state championship: Dragons win semi-final 9-8 | Lacrosse

Top photo: Fans cheer for the San Juan Dragons during the semi-final game against Lake Washington, Wednesday. Second photo, San Juan senior goalie Calen Mehrer (28) thwarts a Lake Washington scoring attempt. Third photo: San Juan and Lake Washington battle for a groundball recovery. Bottom photo: A Lake Washington middie gets some pressure from two San Juan defenders. - Matt Phelps / The Kirkland Reporter
Top photo: Fans cheer for the San Juan Dragons during the semi-final game against Lake Washington, Wednesday. Second photo, San Juan senior goalie Calen Mehrer (28) thwarts a Lake Washington scoring attempt. Third photo: San Juan and Lake Washington battle for a groundball recovery. Bottom photo: A Lake Washington middie gets some pressure from two San Juan defenders.
— image credit: Matt Phelps / The Kirkland Reporter

The San Juan Dragons have faced challenges on and off the field this year to get this far.

On the field: They outscrapped, outmaneuvered and outplayed larger opponents. Even in losing, there were signs this was a more seasoned lacrosse team; the 10-9 loss to Snohomish in double OT comes to mind.

The Dragons defeated all other opponents. Despite finishing the regular season with an 11-2 record, despite winning the Skagit Conference championship, despite comprising more than one-third of the All-Conference team, despite having Division II leaders in assists, goals, groundballs and saves, the team from the small island in the middle of the Salish Sea was still overlooked.

Off the field: On Wednesday, as the Dragons met Kirkland’s Lake Washington in the state Division II semi-final, San Juan was given a passing reference in a Final Four Preview on lacrosse Web site And 30 percent of respondents to a poll favored Lake Washington to win the state championship; San Juan received 9 percent of the vote.

“I can 100 percent guarantee that the DII State Champion team will be Lynnwood, Lake Washington, or Snohomish,” one reader wrote.

Wednesday, the Dragons proved the experts wrong.

The Dragons (14-2 overall) defeated Lake Washington -- the Evergreen Conference champions -- 9-8 Wednesday in Kirkland to advance to the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association Division II championship game, Saturday at Seattle Memorial Stadium.

They will face Lynnwood (16-2 overall) in a game that will long be remembered.

The Dragons opened the season against Lynnwood with a 12-6 loss. A lot has happened since then. Like San Juan, Lynnwood -- the Cascade Conference champs -- finished the regular season with an 11-2 conference record. Its two losses were to Stanwood (10-9) and Providence (11-9). San Juan defeated Stanwood twice, 7-6 OT and 8-4, and Providence 17-7.

Lynnwood has played "in a lot of up and down games this year," the Final Four Preview reported. "Lost two ones early and have come out of some holes to also grab big wins, see Snohomish and Sammamish. Coach Girgus has his boys playing well right now and if they can be disciplined and realize that they are better off letting the other teams take penalties they will be hard to beat."

The gamechangers: Lynnwood has three of the division's leading midfielders. Together, Cameron Girgus, Trey Knowles and Alex Tindall have combined for more than 200 points this year.

"Tindall is a legitimate lefty threat that has been scoring from deep all year long, Trey Knowles is one of the best slash and finish guys in DII and no one will find the open man better from up top than Cameron Girgus," according to the Final Four Preview." Perfect combination ... No other team can match-up with them when those three are running between the lines, except maybe facing off. Lynnwood has struggled this year at the X and should be thankful that there are no dominant players left in that position."

The Dragons boast five All-Skagit Conference team members: Senior midfielder Michael Ausilio, senior midfielder Forest Dayton, senior attackman Ryan Guard, senior goalie Calen Mehrer, and senior defender Brady Sundberg.

Ausilio is first in groundballs (129) in the six-conference, 29-team Division II. Guard is fourth in goals (38) and eighth in assists (16). Mehrer is fourth in save percentage (.684).

Dayton missed some games because of injury, but returned for the May 22 quarterfinal to lead the Dragons with a two-goal, three-assist performance.

Wednesday in Kirkland, fans were kept at the edge of their seats in an intense game with a seesawing lead.

The Dragons opened the game with a goal from senior midfielder Westin Hedin during the fourth minute of play. The back-and-forth nature of the game began to take shape as Lake Washington came right back to tie four minutes later.

The second quarter began with a downpour from the sky and a determined Lake Washington attack, as the home team took the lead 2-1. Neither team could gain more than a two-goal throughout the first half.

San Juan jumped to a 6-5 lead going into the half, but Lake Washington outscored the Dragons 2-1 during the third to tie the game at 7-7 going into the last 12 minutes of play.

The Dragons dominated the fourth quarter, pulling ahead on a goal by senior midfielder Alex Michael with 7:30 on the clock. Senior midfielder Forest Dayton gave San Juan a 9-7 lead with three minutes to play.

The San Juan defense came up big as Lake Washington's leading offensive threat took three shots-on-goal during the final minute-and-a-half of the game.

With San Juan leading 9–7 in the fourth, Lake Washington’s Jake Bernstein scored with 1:31 remaining to bring the game within one. Lake Washington won the final draw and fed the ball to sophomore attackman Cody Bernstein who managed to get off two shots in the final minute of play but was unable to beat Dragons goalkeeper Calen Mehrer on either attempt.

In four quarters, Mehrer had 13 saves at the goal.

Lake Washington: 1-4-2-1 = 8
San Juan: 1-5-1-2 = 9

Lake Washington: Ben Anderson 1G, 1A; Cody Bernstein 1A, 5 GB; Jake Bernstein 3G, 2A, 5GB; Trevor Watkins 2G, 3 GB; Quentin Behr 1G, 3GB; Carson Brown 1G, 2GB. Luke Lattin 11 saves.

San Juan: Kyle Skoog 4G,4GB; Ryan Guard 1G, 2A, 1GB; Westin Hedin 1G, 2GB; Alex Michael 2G, 2GB; Forest Dayton 1G, 3A, 3GB; Cody West 1A, 2GB. Calen Mehrer 13 saves.

Wins in bold
-- March 19: San Juan 6 at Lynnwood 12
-- March 20: Skagit Valley 5 at San Juan 15
-- March 23: San Juan 7 at Stanwood 6 (OT)
-- March 27: Whatcom 6 at San Juan 9
-- April 14: San Juan 9 at Woodinville 4
-- April 17: Providence 7 at San Juan 17
-- April 21: San Juan 15 at Silver Lake 2

-- April 24: Snohomish 10 at San Juan 9 (OT)
-- April 27: San Juan 13 at North County 5
-- April 29: San Juan 6 at Skagit Valley 5
-- May 1: Stanwood 4 at San Juan 8
-- May 4: San Juan 12 at Whatcom 4
-- May 8: North County 4 at San Juan 15
-- May 15: Gig Harbor 5 at San Juan 21
-- May 22: Roosevelt 2 at San Juan 7
-- May 26: San Juan 9 at Lake Washington 8

— Matt Phelps of The Kirkland Reporter, a sister newspaper of The Journal, contributed to this report.

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