During the last three seasons, Loyola Academy has seen all the gimmicks. So when Hinsdale Central came out with a slow-down offense that ran five minutes off the clock on its first possession, the Ramblers didn’t panic.
After going into halftime with only a 4-2 lead, Loyola’s offense exploded for six goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half to break the game open. The Rambler defense held strong and Loyola won its third straight state championship, 15-3, at Northwestern University’s Lakeside Field on Friday night.
“We were prepared to play a 2-1 game or a 5-4 game or a 16-15 game,” Loyola coach John Dwyer said. “And that’s the thing about our kids; these are really smart kids and they don’t get fooled by a whole of things.”
Loyola Academy scored 21 goals against the Red Devils in their regular season matchup so Hinsdale Central tried to control possession by keeping the ball on the perimeter.
And with fewer possessions on offense, the Ramblers had trouble finding a rhythm. They had a number of unforced turnovers, helping keep Hinsdale Central in the game.
“They had such a good attack that I wanted to keep the ball away from them,” Hinsdale Central coach Lindsay Finocchiaro said. “We thought that if we possessed the ball more we’d have a better shot at gaining more possession the whole time and controlling the game.
After Hinsdale Central’s Dylan Vonieff tied the game at 1-1 midway through the first half, Loyola countered with two quick goals after winning consecutive draw controls. Stephanie Scherer beat Red Devil goalie Alyson Bean with a high shot in close and Villanova recruit Nicole Gleason followed with a bounce shot 28 seconds later to give Loyola a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes to go.
But the Ramblers would take over coming right out at halftime, and again, draw controls were pivotal. Loyola won the first two draws of the second half, leading to two goals in the first minute of play. Katherine Eilers found Stepheanie Scherer in front of the net for an easy put-away and 25 seconds later, Molly Hulseman made a nice pass to Nicole Gleason to give the Ramblers a 6-2 lead.
“Once we got control in the second half, those first five or six minutes, I feel that’s where we won the game,” Dwyer said. “Once we got control, it didn’t matter what they tried to do on offense at that point.”
Loyola was dominant from then on, outscoring the Red Devils 11-1 in the second half. Loyola’s offense seemed more patient and unselfish against a defense that became more aggressive with a larger deficit later in the second half.
The Ramblers graduate six seniors from this year’s roster, but will look for a school-record fourth consecutive state championship next season.
“This one was just icing on the cake, it was awesome,” Gleason, a senior, said. “The first two years were awesome, but this year we really played as a team. Lacrosse has definitely been one of my best experiences at Loyola.”