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I drove up to Chicago's North Shore to see the premier Illinois high school lacrosse showdown: The New Trier Trevians versus The Loyola Academy Ramblers. If you follow high school lacrosse in the midwest, you know this game. It's been the championship game almost every year for the last 20 years, so there is history between these teams.
Only a couple of miles separate these two schools. Loyola Academy (Ill.) is a private school, and New Trier (Ill.) is a public school. This is neighbor versus neighbor, travel teammate versus travel teammate, friend versus friend and in one case (this year) brother versus brother. Loyola senior Timmy Hackett and New Trier freshman Johnny Hackett. How do you think that worked out in the Hackett family? Seeing Dad Tim Hackett walking around wearing both teams’ gear was probably the best thing he can do.
In full disclosure, I attended Loyola Academy for two years, until we had an understanding that I shouldn't attend anymore. I thought it was reasonable to take a high school gap year at 16, I digress. My son was also teammates with about 65 percent of the boys on the field for both teams, so it was like an old home week. Getting to see kids I've seen play since they were young and parents I spent a lot of summers with. It was a good thing I was in the press box alone because I was on the edge of my seat for every play. The game was so exciting!
I've covered both of these teams a lot. They are both talented, although they have two different styles of play.
New Trier is tough, physical, cocky and plays with an edge. You’d better keep your head up when playing them. They have stars all over the field. This isn't to say Loyola isn't physical or tough, they just play a different way. They are surgical, quick and skilled. They play a style that isn't often played in the Midwest - it’s more of an east coast style. When it is working, it is impressive to watch. These two styles also make for a great matchup. The brawler versus the boxer. Who can impose their will on the other, and that's why they play the game.
Both teams came out fired up, but New Trier struck first with a goal by Brian Sitzer. I have to say it's great to see Sitzer back in form because he is a force to be reckoned with. Loyola answered moments later on a goal by Timmy Hackett. Another player who is coming off injuries and starting to show his game. Loyola came back with a goal from last week’s LaxRecords Player of the Game, Kaden Keller.
Then it seemed there was a momentum shift and New Trier took control. Some big New Trier hustle plays, especially one by Dylan Bruno to keep possession. New Trier was attacking, but as I've seen in their games this year, they miss the cage a lot.
Finally, they got another one past Loyola goalie Dom Urukalo. A New Trier goal scored by Matthew Moag. At this point in the first quarter, I thought it was New Trier’s game. Their defense was suffocating, and they were playing with swagger. New Trier struck again on Brian Sitzer's second goal. I started thinking that Sitzer was going to go off in this game. The first quarter ended with New Trier ahead 3-2.
I don't know what was said between the first and second quarter, but Loyola's defense looked like a whole different animal. I was fixated on the play of Loyola freshman defenseman Jameson Eigel. He moved really well. The second quarter was a showcase of two top goalies in Dom Urukalo for Loyola and Cooper Yaccino for New Trier.
The halftime score was New Trier up 3-2.
I mentioned that the first half was the tale of two different team’s shooting philosophy. New Trier was firing from everywhere with too many not even on goal and Loyola not shooting enough. It seemed like they were waiting for the perfect opening. You can't score if you don't shoot, and you can't score if you miss the goal on your shots. Write that down, it’s crucial.
New Trier opened up the second half scoring on a goal from another former LaxRecords Player of the game recipient, Henry Scherb. New Trier was bringing it offensively, but Urukalo was up to the task repeatedly, until finally, a Loyola goal by Timmy Hackett, his second of the game. Now there was a little momentum shift, and Loyola seemed to be gelling offensively, but New Trier defenseman and second half goalie Brain Dolby were having none of it.
New Trier finally got possession back, and Matthew Moag scored his second of the game. As the third quarter was winding down Loyola's offense got more focused, and a slick goal by Nolan Chow brought it to 5-4 New Trier by the end of the third quarter.
Gavin Randle started the scoring for New Trier in the fourth making it 6-4.
I'll call the fourth quarter the Urukalo quarter. New Trier smelled blood and was going for it and attacked relentlessly, but Urukalo was up to the task time-and-time again. Without his stellar play, the game is over.
Mikey Feuer, a player I think, goes under the radar a bit and he should not, scored to bring the score 6-5. With time running out Loyola started going hard and New Trier goalie Brian Dolby was doing his part and making big saves. With seconds remaining Nolan Chow found the back of the net for his second goal of the game. That brought the end of the quarter to a 6-6 tie and sent the game into overtime.
Overtime didn't last long because Kaden Keller got the ball and shot a laser into the back of the cage for the game winner. It was great seeing Kaden Keller take his game to the next level.
So that was it. Another delightful game, I loved it. The old cliche’ comes to mind, that “it’s a shame somebody had to lose.” That is how I felt. I thought there was outstanding play from both teams.
My LaxRecords Player of the Game choice kept changing during the game, but in the end, it was a no brainer - Loyola goalie Dom Urukalo.
There are other players I want to recognize for their play. New Trier defensemen Brooks South and James Hemmer were tough all night, as well as strong play from Dylan Bruno and Henry Freeman. Nolan Swain had a great game at faceoff, something he can build on the rest of the way. Dom Urukalo may have gotten a lot of recognition from me, but the two-headed goalie monster for New Trier, Cooper Yaccino and Brian Dolby, were both on my list for their outstanding play. It was great seeing Najee Taylor out there getting comfortable again, and some really nice play from Danny Murphy and Jameson Eigel.
The schedule for Loyola doesn't get more comfortable as they head out to Long Island next week to play nationally-ranked Chaminade (N.Y.), St Anthony’s (N.Y.) and Garden City (N.Y.) in back-to-back games.
I'll be reporting from out there to keep the Midwest aware of how they fare.
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