These Dragons are real.
The Santa Monica Dragons are relatively young, but the local youth lacrosse club is starting to make a name for itself with strong showings at competitive events throughout the region.
That trend continued last weekend at The Rinks in Huntington Beach, where several of the nonprofit organization’s teams seized divisional titles at the California Cup box tournament.
“All five teams played with maximum effort,” co-founder Randy Grube said, “and it showed in the results.”
The rise of the Dragons can be traced back to 2012, when Grube and a few other families cut ties with Santa Monica High School’s club lacrosse program to start what is officially known as the Academy of Lacrosse.
Grube’s group started with just 14 players, but it now features about 200 at a wide variety of ages and skill levels.
The growth of the Dragons program mirrors the proliferation of lacrosse across the country, particularly on the West Coast in recent years. The number of registered players nationwide has skyrocketed from roughly 250,000 in 2001 to nearly 773,000 last year, according to U.S. Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body.
And in the Santa Monica Dragons ranks, the youths are doing much more than merely participating. The club’s seventh- and eighth-grade teams powered their way through the competition at the California Cup, which wrapped up Nov. 1.
The under-13 bracket put the Dragons in matchups against New Jersey-based Mad Dog and the Newport Beach Surf Dawgs, which had defeated Santa Monica in previous meetings.
The Dragons earned the top seed in the division by topping Mad Dog 8-5 and clobbering the Surf Dawgs 17-4 on the first day of competition. Then, on the second day, the local squad showed it meant business by shutting out the Surf Dawgs 14-0 in the semifinals and topping Mad Dog 13-2 in the title game.
The Dragons had standout contributions from goalie Evan Miner, Gage Dado, Jackson Warner, Max Wuchenich and Owen Gaffney.
“We played really well as a team,” said coach Erik Krum, who is also the Dragons athletic director and a coach in the lacrosse program at Harvard-Westlake School. “We were unselfish, passed very well, and played solid defense. The boys really deserved this championship.”
The U15 team, meanwhile, also seized a divisional title as it continues making rapid progress since its inception a year ago.
The Dragons went 5-0 in the tournament, capping their championship with a 9-8 overtime victory against Malibu-based Team West Coast thanks in part to stellar play by Matt Sganga, Gideon Hyman, Spencer Wynn and goalie Miles Gravelle.
Santa Monica gave up just two goals in the final two periods of the final.
“It is amazing to see how far this team has come and how much the players have developed,” coach Matt Cannone said. “We’ve become a really tight group that doesn’t quit. We played unselfishly and moved well off ball all tournament. And we made the [opposing] goalie move, which opened up some holes for goals when we needed them.”
The Dragons high school team reached the California Cup finals, and the program’s squad for fourth- and fifth-grade players lost a semifinal contest in overtime.