LAKE PLACID - The first championships of the 23rd annual Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament were decided Wednesday, as the five junior divisions wrapped up play in the seven-day event that features more than 3,500 youth and adult players.
The first final of the day was in the boys under-15 division, with Maryland's Academy Mortgage claiming a 10-8 victory over the Black Rhinos, a team that traveled to Lake Placid all the way from Portland, Ore.
The two squads came close to winning titles a year ago. After finishing runner-up in 2011, head coach Greg Speed saw his players survive a see-saw battle with the Rhinos, who were coached by Syracuse University legend Ryan Powell. Trailing 4-1 early, Academy stormed back to take a 7-5 lead, but then fell into an 8-7 deficit before scoring the final three goals of the match to claim the championship.
Players on Academy Mortgage celebrate a second half goal during their 10-8 victory over the Black Rhinos in Wednesday’s under-15 championship game at the 23rd annual Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
It marked the second title the Annapolis, Md. area select team has won in its four straight visits to Lake Placid for the Summit tournament.
"Our No. 1 goal was to have fun, and our second goal was to win," Speed said. "We finished second a year ago when our team was Anne Arundel, so obviously we wanted to go one better this year. We did a great job sharing the ball, and we were aggressive on defense.
"Those guys we played on the Rhinos, they were legit. They definitely have some guys who will be playing D-I lacrosse in college," Speed added. "They certainly opened up some eyes that lacrosse is a big deal on the West Coast. The days when the only hotbeds for lacrosse are in New York state and Maryland are over."
Academy finished with a 5-0 record, while the Rhinos ended the tournament with a 4-1 mark. In a display of how badly the Rhinos wanted to win a championship here, a number of their players left the field in tears.
"The kids are heartbroken," said Powell, whose Black Rhinos fell in the semifinals at the Lake Placid Summit in 2011. "We came across the U.S. on a 12-day trip. We already won one championship at the Mad Lax Tournament in Maryland and really wanted to take two titles on this trip.
"We faced a talented team today. They were unselfish and really moved the ball well," Powell continued. "We had a good group of kids who worked hard and played for each other. It's been a long summer of lacrosse for our kids. The guys have been at it for seven weeks."
In the only girls division, the Star Riders Blue, a team that consists mainly of Syracuse area high schoolers, eked out a 13-12 victory over Mass Elite in Wednesday's final. Taylor Poplawski, who will be a senior at Christian Brothers Academy and will play college lacrosse at Syracuse, was named that game's most valuable player.
"We kept a steady pace," Poplawski said. "We were either tied or in the lead the whole way. We did a great job generating offense, and our defense was just a wall. It's a pretty big win for our team. The competition is pretty tough. I saw a lot of players here who will be going D-I in college."
The Star Riders Blue finished with a 5-0 record while Mass Elite ended the tournament at 5-1.
The boys under-18 division had both gold and silver brackets and FCA National swept its way to both championships.
The gold bracket final came down to another battle decided by a single goal, as the FCA National High School team edged Liberty 8-7. FCA National, a squad featuring a slew of Division I college recruits, climbed back from an early 3-1 deficit to earn the win.
FCA National finished with a 5-0 record, outscoring its opponents by a combined 64-30 during its title run.
FCA National's path to the crown in the silver bracket was a little easier, as it topped Clarence 10-5 in the final.
The Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament runs through Sunday, with hundreds of games being contested at the North Elba athletic fields.