Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
LOUISVILLE — It’s never easy when a high school boys lacrosse team graduates the three players that accounted for 112 of its 157 goals the season prior.
Monarch knew that would be a challenge early on, but the Coyotes found ways to get the ball in the cage this year and secure the No. 14 seed in the Class 5A state playoffs. On Wednesday on their home field, their season came to an end after No. 19 Castle View defended its way to a 15-9 victory in the first round.
The Sabercats’ goalie, Ryne Futa, played out of his mind from start to finish. He kept the Coyotes (9-7) completely at bay in the first half especially, when they were constantly bombarding him from every angle.
“Guys did step up and I think that their offensive production was pretty good,” Monarch head coach David Auday said. “If you saw the first half, I think that was the microcosm (of the season). We were out-shooting that team 20 to like nine or 10, so the offensive firepower was there. We just couldn’t ring the bell.”
Five Coyotes, however, did manage to ring that bell as senior Liam Hensler and sophomore Graysen Jolly, both midfielders, each netted hat tricks. Jolly contributed four assists to his impressive game totals as Derek Duplechin, Tommy Roberts, Sam Riecken also got on the board. Monarch took 40 shots in all.
The Coyotes and Sabercats played fairly even throughout the first quarter as neither team managed to gain much of an edge on the other. Both teams battened down the hatches on defense to prevent either from riding any kind of offensive wave. Monarch led 3-2 at the end of the first 12 minutes, but that wouldn’t last.
The Coyotes dominated much of the possession in the second quarter, but couldn’t get past an incredibly tough Futa, despite myriad shot attempts. His performance in the crease kept the Coyotes from increasing their lead, and allowed his Sabercats to open the floodgates in the final minutes of the first half and beyond.
Castle View took a 5-3 advantage at the midway break and only built on it from there. The Sabercats spent much of the third quarter pressuring the Monarch defense from every side, and that pushed the Coyotes past the breaking point with six straight goals. Castle View led 11-4 with 2:51 left in the quarter before Monarch managed to respond.
“The goalie was unconscious and we just didn’t shoot well,” Auday said. “He was on fire. When you’re being outshot by 11 or 12 at the half, he was just making saves everywhere and we hit the post five times in the first three quarters. Five times. It was unserendipitous for sure.”
The Coyotes fell behind 12-5 heading into the final frame. Hensler decided he didn’t like that.
The senior middy came alive in the fourth frame to net not one, not two, but three goals to light the fire that had been smoldering within the Coyote defense for the previous 25 minutes. He, along with freshman middy Roberts, cut the deficit to just three, 12-9, with five minutes left in the game.
“Something just clicked,” Hensler said. “I realized this could be the last game of the season — I’m a senior this year — and I just really felt it and started going. Every time I was on the field, it was just, ‘Give me the ball.’ I was ready to go. Finally started hitting the cage, not the crossbar.”
But just as the Coyotes were on the precipice of turning the tides into their favor, the Sabercats shut them down again. Now, this squad of 36 will say goodbye to its five seniors, only to see a huge chunk of its roster return for 2023. Hensler believes the players’ experience on Wednesday will serve them well as they move forward, even though it wasn’t the outcome they had hoped for.
“I’m bummed to leave,” he said, “but at the end of the day, I’m looking forward to these guys’ future and I think a lot of these guys, maybe next year, they can make a big run in the playoffs. I’m super proud of these guys.”