Still in its infancy compared to the veteran clubs in Northern Nevada, the Oasis Bighorns lacrosse under-15 team has quickly become the alpha male.
The Bighorns have ravaged their competition this season, and as a result, earned the No. 1 seed for Saturday and Sunday’s state lacrosse tournament at Spanish Springs High School.
Oasis faces Greenspun, the South’s No. 2 seed at 9 a.m., while Mount Rose and Faith Lutheran tangle at 10:30 a.m. The title game is at 9 a.m. Sunday.
“It’s real exciting,” Oasis coach John Keitz said. “The guys are really pumped for it. There’s this sort of professionalism about them. They are acting like we’ve earned this. They don’t feel like they are over their heads.”
The U15 squad, which began as Oasis’ first team in the U13 division three years ago, has gelled quickly. After a rough start in their inaugural season, the Bighorns were a competitive group last year advancing to the league tournament but falling short of a title.
Nevertheless, the resilient and eager club hit the field in the fall for the program’s annual fall camp and has ripped through the High Sierra League this season.
Oasis’ potent offensive is the best in the league, outscoring its opponents 64-18 in six games.
“We’ve taken that next step,” Keitz said. “If you watched us last year … right down to that last goal scorer, we hit the post or dropped the pass. This year, that finisher is there.”
Despite being in the middle of their regular season, the Bighorns earned the No. 1 seed on April 9. The youth state tournament, Keitz said, runs with the high school division, which ends its season this weekend.
Although Oasis still has about six games remaining, Keitz said the club is loose, relaxed and focused going into Saturday’s showdown.
“I’m big on a one game at a time mentality,” Keitz said. “I didn’t want them blowing the game at North Tahoe. Now we are working hard. We’ve been trying to have fun and keep them loose. I don’t want them stressed.”
The biggest challenge for Oasis, though, is the unknown, scouting an unseen opponent. While the Bighorns post all their games on YouTube, Keitz said he has only been able to find highlight packages of Greenspun.
The lack of scouting will lead to on-the-fly decisions from the coaching staff and players, but Keitz said his team is prepared. In addition, Oasis added an extra practice this week.
“It’s a little hard to read,” Keitz said of scouting. “There is going to be some of that on-the-fly adjustment. It doesn’t look like they mind throwing the body around, so I told my guys to be ready for that. I anticipate we will have a good number of extra man situations and I want to exploit that.”
Of the many reasons Oasis has become the hunted, the offense is the spark. Trey Rooks and Anthony Delgado provide a significant size advantage as the two hulking attackmen run through defenders with ease.
Rooks, the team’s leading scorer, said the success is bred from teamwork. Delgado, who also finds the back, typically assists Rooks and his teammates, Keitz said.
“We pass really well and get along really well,” Rooks said. “It’s only our third year together, but we are coming together really well and we have a good chance of winning it. We are coming to play.”
Joining the offensive onslaught, though are the midfielders or “middies” in lacrosse speak. These players are the glue of the team and must be in the best condition as they are the only position players allowed to play in both the offensive and defensive zones.
Leading the charge there are Josh Carter, Trent Thorn, Anthony Lombardo and Tristen Rodarte. Yet another advantage for Keitz, he said, is the ability to rotate the midfield lines even with first-year players such as Patrick Morrow and Koda Biggs.
“Middies do everything,” Keitz said. “There isn’t a core, it’s all of them.”
The group’s chemistry has been undeniable as all have the ability to score, while transitioning to defense and mucking up play in the middle forcing opponents out of their rhythm.
Yet another key igniting the Bighorns’ attack is the faceoff. Specialist Rodarte is winning faceoffs at an astounding 90 percent clip, Keitz said, which allows Oasis to either start the game or quarter or after a goal with possession.
“A faceoff guy should have three moves,” Keitz said. “He’s got that, but he’s been doing his one move over and over because he is so fast. It’s amazing.”
Defensively, Keitz said he has the luxury of having the two best goaltenders in the league in Brendan Leary and Kaden Stone. He said it’s difficult deciding which netminder to start and sometimes it comes down to the look in their eyes before the opening faceoff.
In front of the two goalies, though, is a talented mix of defenders lead by the long-pole threesome of David Springfield, Mason Lofthouse and Dillon Presnell. Those three, whose sticks are much longer than the typical lacrosse stick, are a harassing trio who are the first line in a suffocating presence.
The short stick defenders, such as and JayDan Vasquez, added an extra layer of security to an already formidable presence.
“I feel like it will be a really good game,” Carter added. “We have good coaching, good passing and work together really well.”