67° F Thursday, March 23, 2017

By San Antonio Jackson
Contributing Writer

Senior attackman Tanner Thompson is the Larry Bird of this year’s Chaparral lacrosse team.
He lulls defenders to sleep, and when he sees their shoulders sag, he shoots, passes or runs around them to shoot or pass closer to the goal.
Like Bird, Thompson is deceptively quick. And smart.
In last week’s 19-9 win over Cedar Park, Thompson demonstrated just how easy he could make lacrosse look. The opening play went like this: Michael Edwards won the faceoff, scooped up the ground ball and raced downfield. Edwards passed to Thompson, who noticed the goalie swiveling to face him. Out of the corner of his eye, Thompson spotted Hayden Byrd slipping into an open space on the right side of the crease. Thompson passed. Byrd scored. The whole thing took eight seconds, a rodeo ride.
Thompson is a captain on this year’s Westlake (6-2, 2-0) squad. He spent spring break trying to figure out where to go to college. He made a West Coast swing.
“I like assists,” Thompson said during a campus tour of Chapman in Los Angeles. “I like them more than goals because you’re sort of sharing the experience. Assists connect you with your teammates on the field. I used to want to score goals. Now, if I get an assist I feel just as good.”
After Thompson’s opening assist, the game against Cedar Park was never close.
Westlake led 15-3 at the end of the third quarter en route to the 19-9 finish. Hayden Byrd scored five goals for the night, Thompson had four, John Azar added three. Matt Amerie scored two goals, while Will Clarkson, Sam Appling, Grant Lang, Mac Breedlove and Edwards each scored one. Edwards was unstoppable at faceoff – he won 16 out of 22 attempts, and had 15 groundballs for the game. Matthew Rockwell had seven groundballs.
Coach Evan Whelchel is looking forward to the second half of the season.
“We can practice and prepare and change things,” Whelchel said.
During the first half, Westlake often played two games per week and sometimes, three.
“Everything we do between February and April is for postseason seeding purposes,” Whelchel said. “We give the boys a week off at spring break to come back refreshed. It’s expected for us to win district this year. It was a cool feeling last year, but even then we were looking ahead. We want state. We’ve done almost everything we can do as a program short of that.”
Whelchel said that this year’s seniors are on track to graduate as the winningest class in Westlake history.
“We want the younger guys to get the experience of winning district and state,” he said. “I think it’s possible for this year’s team, especially when we play together.”
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