The sunlight tends to play tricks on the scoreboard at Monarch's home field. When the sun is out, the numbers go dim with a glare. Similarly, in the second half as the sun beamed and Monarch's stars shined, Palmer's season began to dim.
The Coyotes, after struggling to gain separation in the first half, turned a 6-5 advantage at the break into a 12-7 outburst after three quarters. Monarch (14-2) rode an explosive second half to a 13-9 win in the first round of the Class 5A lacrosse playoffs over the visiting Terrors (12-4), sealing a second consecutive quarterfinals appearance in the process, their third in the past five seasons.
Monarch, hosting a playoff opener as a No. 7 seed in back-to-back seasons, only trailed briefly in the first quarter after goals by Isaac Waterhouse and Carter Jensen provided Palmer with a 2-1 lead.
Then, Andrew Zwiers came alive. The senior attacker, tied for the third most goals in 5A at a monstrous 48 entering the postseason, had two in the final 8.2 seconds of the first, including a buzzer-beater that provided Monarch with a jolt and a 3-2 lead.
"I was just taking advantage of their zone," Zwiers, who scored his team's first three goals and finished with four, said of his thrilling first. "That's probably my favorite defense to play against and they were more focused on other players. I took advantage of it and capitalized."
But, the Terrors hadn't been tamed yet as goals by Isaac Atencio, Ike Mahan and Josh James helped the visitors linger. That is, until the Coyotes had their explosive six-goal third frame.
"We had our intel going," Monarch coach David Auday said. "We knew about their 3-3 zone and their great goalie. My coaches, Dax Roane and Wayne Chancellor, the offensive and defensive coordinators, put in a great game plan. We got film and we were ready."
Monarch's defense, led by Sammer Ziady, Derek Coleman and Skyler Guess, held up their end of the bargain, while goalie Andrew Winans had some critical saves in the final frame.
The Coyotes' largest lead was 13-7 after a goal by Chad Kreuzer with 10:21 left in the fourth, but Palmer cut the deficit to 13-9 with 4:05 remaining. Winans made a save with just over three minutes to go that all but shut the door on the Terrors' last-chance efforts.
"I thought defensively we all played pretty well," Auday said. "They had a lot of talented short-sticks, so holding them to that few of goals is impressive."
Jared Hodell tied for the team lead for goals with Zwiers with four apiece. Senior Kreuzer, the program's all-time leader in goals (187) and points (325), didn't have a huge performance but was still effective with a pair of goals as well.
Now Monarch is on to the next step as a semifinals bid will be at stake Saturday at Legacy Stadium in Aurora, site of all the quarterfinals matchups for 5A. The Coyotes will face No. 2 Mountain Vista (15-1) at 3 p.m. during the final game of the day.
Auday knows the challenges that come in the quarterfinals, but believes Monarch is more prepared than last season with a veteran group who has an extra dose of chemistry.
"We're going to need to rely on those seniors," he said.
"I'm eager to get back there and try to win this time," Zwiers added. "I think we're just as confident, if not more confident than last year. No matter who we play we're always in the game."
Monarch 13, Palmer 9
At Monarch High SchoolPalmer (12-4) 2 3 2 2 — 9
Monarch (14-2) 3 3 6 1 — 13
Goals — Palmer: Isaac Waterhouse 2, Josh James 2, Carter Jensen 2, Isaac Atencio 1, Ike Mahan 1, Noah Smith 1; Monarch: Andrew Zwiers 4, Jared Hodell 4, Chad Kreuzer 2, Ty Bradley 1, Ben Terry 1, Jackson Rose 1.
Assists — Palmer: Josh James 1, Carter Jensen 1; Monarch: Andrew Zwiers 2, Chad Kreuzer 1.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Palmer: Caleb Espinoza (48-13-9); Monarch: Andrew Winans (48-9-7).