Gig Harbor High School junior lacrosse player Nick Guardia promised teammate Alex Dworsky that he’d get a behind-the-back goal this year.
Guardia couldn’t have picked a better time to make good on that promise.
With less than three minutes to go in the second annual Baggataway Bowl on May 12 against Peninsula at Roy Anderson Field, with the score tied at 10, Guardia delivered the game-winning goal on a behind-the-back shot.
“I caught it a little wide so I didn’t have time to bring it around, so as quick as I could, I just flipped it into the back of the net,” Guardia said.
Tides coach Marc Kemp was impressed with the effort that gave Gig Harbor the 11-10 win, evening the young rivalry’s record at one game apiece.
“That was one of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen,” Kemp said. “The thing with doing behind the back shots is, it’s not about being a hot dog. It’s that’s the best angle he had in that moment. He was already past the front of the cage, so going behind his back was the right shot. Not a lot of guys can pull that off.”
The game was a wild, back-and-forth affair, with leads constantly changing and neither team eager to concede.
“The boys played really hard, they were really focused and they wanted to take it away for the second year in a row,” Peninsula coach Tracy Lyon said. “Harbor is a well coached team, they’ve got some great players. It’s pretty awesome, it’s just an ongoing back and forth. It’s nice to see that we’re even.”
Peninsula won by one goal last year. This year, it was Gig Harbor’s turn to flip the script.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Guardia said. “We didn’t panic, we just played our game. We knew we could pull through because we’ve been here before.”
Peninsula attacked ferociously in the final minute, hoping to tie the game up and force overtime. But Gig Harbor senior goalie Ashton Sidebottom and the Tides’ defense held up.
“Our defense has been really strong this year,” Sidebottom said. “You can’t really expect people not to take shots. We just kind of tried to force them to take outside shots that would be easiest for me to save. That was our plan, just hold them as far back as we could.”
The game drew ample crowds from both schools, and in the fourth quarter, fans started to get perceptibly invested in the result. Chants going back and forth, nervous anticipation, celebrations — the game had the feel of a Friday night football game in the fall. Sidebottom hardly noticed.
“As a player, when you focus on the field, you don’t notice everything on the side,” he said.
Overall, the game was a fun rivalry between two teams that share a friendship and mutual respect.
“This game is more about the friendship we all have,” Sidebottom said. “We’ve all played together, it’s a really good way to come together. It’s always fun to do it at the end of the season.”