90° F Wednesday, July 26, 2017

By San Antonio Jackson
Westlake Picayune Contributing Writer

Hayden Byrd slept the whole way home from Houston the weekend before last-two-and-a-half hours straight.

He and his teammates had played four games in six days – wins over Westwood and St. Stephen’s, and back-to-back losses against Houston Christian and top-ranked The Woodlands.

“I was disappointed,” Byrd said after the Houston trip.

On Saturday, the Chaps lost to Houston Christian 14-13, and Sunday, 12-5 to The Woodlands. The Woodlands is currently the top-ranked team in the state, according to LaxPower. The Chaps (11-4, 7-0) slid one spot to seventh.

“I thought we could bring it to The Woodlands,” Byrd said. “We’ve never beaten them since I’ve been at Westlake.”

Byrd is a senior. A leftie. A four-year varsity attackman. He’ll play lacrosse next year for Sewanee, The University of the South.

“I learned in Houston that I was out of practice,” Byrd said. “I needed to watch game film, so I did. I realized that I needed to be more of a leader on the field.”

It wasn’t long before he got his chance.

On April 11, the Chaps played Anderson at House Park, in Westlake’s next-to-last district matchup. Anderson entered the game 8-4, and its only district loss was to Lake Travis. The Trojans were on a roll — they hadn’t lost since spring break when they flew to a tournament in Tampa.

“We’ve tended to be flat for our district games,” Byrd said 30 minutes before faceoff. “We know we’re playing for district and super-regionals. Tonight that means we need to ride on defense and move quickly through our offense.”

The Chaps dominated the Trojans from the get-go. Byrd assisted Matthew Rockwell to start things off. By the end of the first quarter, Westlake led 5-1. It was 11-5 at half. The final was 20-11, Westlake.

Craig Kemper had his best game of the season.

Kemper scored four times, the last with 8:40 to go. As he drove toward the cage, Kemper shifted his stick from his left hand to his right and back again three separate times. When Kemper finally scored, the goalie was within bayonet range. After the game, Kemper barely seemed to remember the goal. Maybe they all blurred together.

“I just caught it left and didn’t want to shoot left,” was all he said.

Mac Breedlove poured in four goals against Anderson. Matthew Rockwell, Tanner Thompson and Matt Amerie scored two each. Will Clarkson, Stephen Okamoto, Tate Bowden and Michael Edwards had one goal apiece.

Byrd ended the game with two goals and four assists. He was smiling as he walked off the field, the weekend in Houston a fading memory.

“We brought the intensity tonight,” Byrd said. “It definitely showed.”
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