As the six-time defending champion, New Trier doesn’t get to play the underdog role very often. But on Saturday afternoon it seemed to suit the Trevians just fine.
Senior Patrick Callahan’s two goals in the second quarter sparked a dominating performance by the Trevians as New Trier won its seventh straight state championship with a 9-2 victory over Loyola Academy at Oak Park-River Forest High School.
“We laid it on the seniors this year and they got it done. The seniors really pulled through,” New Trier coach Tom Herrala said. “Everybody else has another chance, this was their last chance…It was all on those guys and they showed up, did an awesome job and they wanted it.”
With a 6-5 loss to Loyola Academy (17-5) less than a month ago in the regular season, New Trier (18-6) was seeded second to the No. 1 Ramblers in the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association bracket. Several people picked Loyola to finally end New Trier’s title run, including Lake Forest coach Dan Maigler, whose team lost to New Trier in the quarterfinals.
But New Trier showed why it has become a hegemonic power in the postseason, putting together one of its most complete performances of the season.
“We kind of focused on playing smarter lacrosse, which we did not play last time we played them,” Herrala said. “That was a basic problem we had in the beginning of the season. We got smarter as the season went on.”
After a weather delay pushed the title match back more than an hour, both teams came out a little flat, ending the first quarter in a scoreless tie.
It was during the second quarter that New Trier’s offense began to get in rhythm. A little more than a minute into the period, Callahan faked a shot on the perimeter, took a couple steps to his right and fired a bounce shot past Loyola goalie Kevin Steger. Later in the quarter, Callahan provided a carbon copy of the first goal, sending in another long shot from the outside for New Trier’s second goal.
“We didn’t have very many open looks so I just decided I had to just go for it and kind of take hold of the game,” Callahan said. “I just went as hard as I could and got a nice wide-open righty shot and buried two of them.”
New Trier tacked on two more goals to go into halftime up 4-1. But the Trevians would stretch the lead even further in the third quarter. An early tripping penalty on Loyola gave New Trier a man-advantage and the Trevians capitalized. Sophomore attacker Rory McGinnis found Ben Miller cutting in front of the net for an easy put-away and, four minutes later, Chad Sawyer scored from the right side to give New Trier a 6-1 advantage.
On the other end, New Trier’s defense was stifling. Starting defensemen Taylor McGinnis, Connor DeLoach and Peter Schroeder played aggressive and never gave Loyola many open looks. They forced countless groundballs, converting some into turnovers, and the Ramblers rarely got into a flow offensively. New Trier held Loyola without a goal for more than 30 minutes between the second and fourth quarters.
The few shots Loyola did get off rarely found the back of the crease. Junior goalie Jack Connelly was huge for New Trier, getting credit for 12 saves, including a couple big ones early in the first quarter when New Trier’s offense was struggling.
“I think we were scared to shoot the ball a little bit, a little hesitant,” Loyola Academy coach Rob Snyder said. “We weren’t getting into our offense because we weren’t scoring so I think that had a lot to do with it.”
New Trier stretched its lead to 9-1 in the fourth quarter when Charlie Carothers hit from the perimeter on the man-advantage.
Loyola scored its second and final goal with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter when Brendan Dowdle hit Luke Cowan with a feed in front for a goal.
Callahan, Carothers and Sawyer all had two goals to lead New Trier. Mick Parks, Miller and McGinnis each had one. Luke Cowan had both goals for Loyola Academy.
New Trier graduates 15 seniors from this year’s roster. This state championship gave four Trevian seniors – Sawyer, Callahan, Carothers and Robbie Marren – four state titles in their time at New Trier.
“We had so much potential on this team and finally this game, we put it all together, everything came together,” Callahan said. “We played our hearts out.”