Staying on Top

Palisades attacker Ethan Rubin (left) is shoved by Hamilton middie Saben Spira during Saturday’s City Section final at Birmingham High. The Dolphins won 21-3 for their third straight title.
Photos by Steve Galluzzo

Pali High Boys Lacrosse Routs Hamilton for Third Straight City Crown; Girls Fall to Birmingham

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

Although there was still half a game to play, Palisades High’s boys lacrosse team could have started the celebration during intermission of last Saturday afternoon’s City Section final at Birmingham High in Lake Balboa.

By then, the outcome was decided and as the clock ran continuously in the third and fourth quarters the Dolphins ran away with their third straight title and fourth in five years with a 21-3 drubbing of Hamilton.

It was fitting that Palisades’ journey ended with the same team against which it started with a 16-goal victory back in February—and the latest result was even more one-sided.   

“They’re hungry for a championship so we knew it was important to play up to our level, not down to theirs,” said junior middie Jack O’Rourke, who had four goals and four assists. “Our seniors remember their freshman year when they lost this game and we didn’t want that happening again, so it was very important to keep our streak going.”

Palisades’ Isabel McKinlay fires a shot from the circle in Saturday’s City girls final versus archrival Birmingham.

Hamilton, which had lost to Palisades 19-9 and 16-6 in the previous two City finals, hung with the top-seeded Dolphins early, pulling even at 3-3 just past the six-minute mark of the first quarter, but Macchio Rissone put Palisades ahead to stay 30 seconds later and by the end of the quarter the Dolphins led 6-3. The onslaught continued in the second quarter as Palisades scored seven times for a 10-goal cushion.

Palisades scored three times in the third quarter and five times in the fourth to cap a string of 18 unanswered goals and it was Rissone who led the way with seven goals and three assists, adding to his all-time school scoring record.

Palisades middie Milo Sherman scoops up a ground ball in the first half of Saturday’s City final at Birmingham.

“Blowouts aren’t as dramatic but this one is the most emotional,” said Rissone, who was recruited by Division I schools Vermont, Jacksonville and High Point but chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan, a Division III program, next season. “I’m one of only five seniors and I knew for us to succeed I had to make everyone around me better. I made a point to teach the younger guys as much as I could and give them what I didn’t get. I visited the campus [at Ohio Wesleyan], the coaches really pulled me in. At a Division I school I wouldn’t have played much, but there I’ll be able to play my freshman year.”       

Coach Kevin Donovan emptied his bench in the second half, trying to give every player time to savor the experience. He has led the Dolphins to three City titles in his three years at the helm and admitted this is his best team yet.

“This is the strongest by far… the kids have gotten used to me,” he said. “My playbook is a little more advanced than most coaches at this level, but I told them to share the rock… that’s when we’re at our best. They listened and the result speaks for itself. We have a bigger goal this year—the CIF final four.”

Senior captain and leading scorer Macchio Rissone raises the City championship trophy for the third year in a row.

Before the boys continued one dynasty, the Pali High girls squad sought to bring an end to another.

Birmingham had defeated Palisades in the previous four City finals, but the Dolphins were confident this was their year to break through after splitting a  pair of regular season meetings with the Patriots.

Isabel McKinlay tied the game 1-1 on a free shot  with 18:16 left in the first half and trimmed the Dolphins’ deficit to 4-2 at the 9:41 mark but Birmingham      scored five unanswered goals to lead 9-2 at halftime.

After allowing the first goal of the second half, Palisades scored four straight—three by McKinlay and one by Ally Stahl—to make the final score 10-6.

“Thank you for trying your hardest,” Pali High Coach Betsy Economou told her players afterwards. “They were better today but be proud of yourselves.”