Even though San Benito lost to Stevenson—the second-place team in the Mission Trail League’s South Division—it was far closer than the scores of the previous matches between the teams in the last two years.
“Last year against Stevenson, we couldn’t even score,” said Balers attacker Jason Lehman, who scored a career-high four goals in the game. “Now we can score multiple goals back to back. We had a phenomenal game.”
Lehman, Camren Arnett and Jason White are three of the many players who have filled a key role for the Balers, who are challenging for a league playoff spot. They entered the week in third place in their division, with the top four making the postseason. Arnett, a sophomore midfielder, scored two goals against Pacific Grove—both of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.
White had another solid game as the goalie, making several saves. Lehman also had two scores against Pacific Grove bridging the second and third quarter. San Benito trailed for most of the contest and didn’t take its first lead until Cameron Last broke a 9-9 tie with a goal with 6 minutes, 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Arnett added a score with 5:33 remaining, drilling a shot from close range. It would turn out to be the insurance goal the Balers needed, as Pacific Grove answered with a goal 50 seconds later. San Benito then had to withstand a furious Pacific Grove attack the rest of the way.
White made some key stops, and the field players—from the defenders to the midfielders to the attackers—did a great job of maintaining possession. The result showed just how far the Balers have come. When teams are virtually equal from a talent and coaching standpoint, it’s discipline—or a lack of—that often determines the result in a physical sport such as lacrosse.
While they’re still a work in progress, the Balers have learned not to let their emotions get the best of them. Although San Benito made a couple of mistakes against Pacific Grove, it held its composure for the most part.
“It all came down to putting our heads in it and not playing dumb,” Arnett said. “We wanted to make every check count, every ground ball count, every shot count. We didn’t want to commit silly penalties, silly checks, silly fouls, or nothing that we shouldn’t be doing. It all comes down to discipline, and we’re a lot more experienced now.”
Lehman was particularly excited for the Stevenson result. That’s because the Balers were without their leading scorer, Tyler Benedetti.
“Imagine what we could do the next time we play Stevenson with Tyler,” said Lehman, whose 12 goals is triple the number he scored a year ago. “Most of the guys on the team have an attitude of working hard and never stopping. We want to keep on improving.”
Lehman’s defensive skills have always been ahead of his offensive game, so he spent the off-season working on his shot and overall foot speed. It’s paid off, as most of Lehman’s goals have come when he finds a vacant spot on the field, receives a pass and then rips a shot.
Two of Lehman’s goals against Stevenson came within a 10 second span, a result of scoring immediately off face-offs. Lehman said he loves getting pumped up with his teammates, and does his best to keep the intensity up.
Going forward, San Benito has to stay disciplined and mentally tough to secure a playoff berth. Arnett has come back strong after missing two weeks early in the season due to a concussion. Unassuming and forthright, Arnett plays unselfishly, as he didn’t take a single shot on goal in the first quarter against Pacific Grove.
“I noticed they weren’t really guarding me as the game went on, so I decided to start shooting,” he said. “It’s been a good season for us. We just want to make sure we make everything count this season.”