The varsity boys lacrosse teams stands together during the national anthem before their game.
The varsity boys lacrosse teams stands together during the national anthem before their game.
Jacob Swibel

Rockets smash Panthers and advance to Regional Final

RM boys lacrosse booked their ticket to the regional final following their 12-2 victory Thursday night over the Paint Branch Panthers.

Early offensive pressure created a high-tempo rhythm for the RM attackers, a pace with which the Panthers could not keep up. This pressure led to three goals in under two minutes for the Rockets: two from junior midfielder Charlie West and one from senior midfielder Cooper Dunn. The Rockets continued their offensive success later in the first quarter with goals from Dunn and junior attack Kian Rajabtavousi. Despite three tough saves made by the Paint Branch goaltender, the Panthers failed to make any dents in their five-goal deficit.

“We wanted to communicate on offense and put an emphasis on fundamentals,” Head Coach Steve Puhl said.

The offense fired on all cylinders early, but the defense successfully thwarted any pressure from the Panthers. RM goalie freshman Charlie Finnegan was only forced to make two saves in the first half. The Rockets aggressively checked any Panther attackers entering the offensive zone. Senior Daniel Tofig led the physical battle and checked two different Panthers to the ground.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our defensive strategy was having everyone pack the middle so the goal wasn’t open and getting to their hands,” senior close defender Peter Kim said.

Physical play and an offensive onslaught frustrated Paint Branch players, which caused penalties for both teams. Senior attack Cabell Faulkner clashed with the Paint Branch goalie after a fight for the ball and Tofig was penalized for an illegal check. However, the Rocket defense held firm and successfully survived a three-man Panther advantage at one moment in the game. Coincidentally, the Rockets’ had practiced two-man down defense at practice the day before, and it paid off in the game, as the Panthers failed to score on multiple occasions when the Rockets had two in the box. 

“We communicated more and brought more energy because it’s the playoffs,” Kim said. “Extra energy helped us stay on our toes.”

In the second half, the Rockets continued their offensive success. Rajabtavousi, junior attack Charlie Maust, Faulkner, junior midfielder Dylan Kraft and junior attack Coby Ritter all netted goals. Despite conceding two goals, the Rockets comfortably cruised to a semifinal victory.

“Since we played Paint Branch earlier in the season we knew how they ran their defense and offense so we prepared formations and plays to beat them,” Dunn said.

The Rockets will face the Einstein Titans on Monday in the regional final. The Titans are 11-1 with their only loss against Walter Johnson. Einstein’s 19-3 loss against Sherwood in the County Championship does not count towards their regular season record. To win this tough matchup, the Rockets need to make quick movements on the ball and use their bodies. Limiting unforced errors and stopping adjacent passes are keys to the game plan Puhl mentioned.

“We simply need to come out hot,” Dunn said. “We need our energy to be next level going into the game in order for us to move forward.”


If you would like to voice your opinion on an issue you feel is relevant to our community, please do so here. Anyone is able and welcome to submit a Letter to the Editor, regardless of journalistic experience or writing skills. Submissions may be published either online or in a print issue.

More to Discover