When Luke Miller began high school at Gonzaga, many of his Next Level club lacrosse teammates were scattered across the perennially powerful Interstate Athletic Conference. At the beginning, Miller’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference squad struggled to match up with those teams. Three years later, the senior defender captured bragging rights.
Top-ranked Gonzaga beat No. 3 Landon, 7-5, in a nonleague matchup Friday in Bethesda to finish the season unbeaten against IAC teams (4-0) for the first time. The Eagles rallied from an early four-goal deficit by holding the Bears scoreless over the game’s final 33 minutes, 6 seconds.
“It just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter,” Miller said. “Every year we’ve progressively gotten a little bit better and a little bit better, and I can’t say I’d want it any other way.”
To complete its IAC sweep, Gonzaga (17-1) had to work through a slow start. Landon (11-6) took a 5-1 lead on senior Charlie Schnider’s goal three minutes into the second quarter.
The Eagles’ sluggish ball movement became more crisp and results followed almost immediately. They scored three times in the final three minutes of the second quarter and tied the game at 5 on junior Max Planning’s goal 17 seconds before halftime.
“We just started to play,” Coach Casey O’Neill said. “I told our kids at halftime, ‘[With] what you just did in four minutes to tie this thing up, imagine what you can do in 24 in the second half.’ ”
Planning, a Denver recruit, snuck a low-angle shot inside the post late in the third quarter to give Gonzaga its first lead. Senior Matt Bowman (Army) scored a fourth-quarter insurance goal off a feed from junior Patrick Myers. The Eagles would have added more if not for a flurry of saves by Landon senior Alex Joyce in the final minutes.
Landon — which had won eight straight — did not recover its offensive rhythm and was confounded by miscues around the goal. The Bears attempted just six shots in the second half and put only two on net.
Gonzaga’s impressive play down the stretch earned another marquee win for its growing resume. The Eagles, who suffered their only loss March 26 at McDonogh (Baltimore), beat No. 2 Bullis, 12-2, early in the season and also notched their first-ever victory against No. 5 Georgetown Prep on March 30. The other IAC win came against St. Albans in March.
The Eagles head into next week’s WCAC tournament without a conference loss in nearly three years.
“This is our best year,” Planning said. “We really just needed to solidify it and prove to everyone that we’re No. 1, so this was the biggest game of our season by far.”
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