Young but Tested: Culver City High School’s Lacrosse Team built through years of experience

Photo by Christian May-Suzuki TIED TOGETHER — From left, junior Quinten Brunson, junior Gabriel Marotti, junior Justin Beighey, junior Ray Sugiyama, and sophomore Joey Chabola have all played with each other since they joined the Culver City Lacrosse Club in third grade.

By Christian May-Suzuki

They say that bonds forged by battle are some of the strongest there are, and Culver City High School boys’ lacrosse assistant coach Devin Maxwell would agree with that sentiment. Maxwell has seen his fair share of competition, having excelled in lacrosse at Morrisville State College in New York, a NCAA Division III school.

The one thing Maxwell says he has never seen before is the depth of chemistry that this Culver City High School Lacrosse team has demonstrated.

It makes sense, considering large majority of the members of the team are all part of the same group that has played together since the second grade. The boys played many years in the Culver City Lacrosse Club, and was one of the first groups to come together in that club.

Some of them knew each other from as far back as kindergarten, and that familiarity helped the team succeed, Maxwell said.

As they realized they were getting really good, the boys continued to play with each other and stick with it. When freshman year swung around, five of the players in that group — Quinten Brunson, Gabriel Marotti, Justin Beighey, Ray Sugiyama, and Joey Chabola — along with one other player were “thrown into the fire” as they joined the varsity team right out of the gate.

This year, the group will be entering a new year with high school experience, and understand what they need to do to take the next step as a group.

For this team, the first game will be the biggest, and it’s not for the reasons many might think. Because of the way that lacrosse scheduling currently works, the Centaurs a huge variety of teams not limited by division. 

One of those teams happens to be Brentwood, who is a Division 2 school like Culver, but has a bit of a history with the Centaurs.

The two teams faced off early last season, with the game being Culver’s third game of the season. While the Centaurs eventually fell to Brentwood, the game was heated and physical, and the Centaurs suffered a huge blow when Beighey, one of their top players, broke his collarbone in that game.

As the guys talked about playing Brentwood, there was an obvious eagerness to go to war with the Eagles once again. But it’s not for revenge, or out of anger. They simply want to defend the honor of a teammate who wasn’t given the opportunity to show what he could do the last time the teams met.

That moment was a devastating blow, but not one that the team couldn’t overcome.

“When I told the guys that I was out for the year, they really buckled down,” Beighy lauded.

With the tough schedule outside of the Ocean League, the Centaurs entered league play with a paltry 3-8 record. 

The team was banged up, still reeling from the collarbone injury and other players being dinged up. At this point, you would think a team’s cracks would begin to widen as players tired.

This group is different. They instead came together to seal those cracks, just as they have for almost a decade, and put together a heroic 5-0 run to win the Ocean League outright. Though they lost in CIF playoffs, this achievement is not something to be understated.

As flabbergasting as it may seem, one of the team’s main goals for the upcoming season is to further reinforce the chemistry and bonds that have impressed so many and gotten them so far. The guys believe that they can continue to improve their ability to play together, and that their chemistry fell to levels below their standards.

“The past few years, we have been playing more on the individual basis. This year, we have a tight knit group and we all love playing together, love sharing the ball, and we just want to win,” Brunson said.

“There is always something to improve on,” Chabola admitted. “You can never be satisfied with where you are at.”

With the confidence that the team built from its run last season, the team hopes to build even further and establish themselves as a strong lacrosse team.

That being said, it should be no surprise to anyone that this group has its eyes on the prize this year. From taking down powerhouse St. John-Bosco to winning a ring, the goals for the lacrosse team are lofty.

But with this group and the time they have spent together, special things can happen. This team showed that the bonds they forged can take them far, and with what they achieved given the circumstances last season, it’s hard to doubt that they can do anything they set their mind to together.

The team opens its season on Wednesday against Brentwood at Culver High’s Jerry Chabola Stadium Lacrosse Field at 4 p.m.