High School Season Rewind: Midwest Region (June 6)
by Teddy Cahill | LaxMagazine.com
Player of the Year
Zach Powers, Upper Arlington (Ohio), Sr. D
Powers, a senior defenseman, picked up Player of the Year honors from the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association and the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association this season. He also repeated as the OHSLA's Defender of the Year and helped lead Upper Arlington to a state championship.
Powers picked up 64 ground balls and had 47 takeaways. Many opposing teams simply avoided coming anywhere near Powers when they were on offense. "He is big and athletic and just doesn't let his attackman be a major factor," the coach said.
Powers will play at North Carolina next year.
For six years, Loyola Academy (Ill.) had ended its season with a loss in the Illinois state championship game to New Trier (Ill.), its archrival. Coming that close to the trophy and then watching its biggest rival carry it off the field time after time started to wear on the Ramblers.
Loyola thought it was in position to break the streak last year. It beat New Trier in the regular season and entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. But the Trevians were ready for a rematch in the title game and won 9-2.
"We felt like we were going to win it all," goalie Kevin Steger said. "We had all confidence in the world. To lose was very, very difficult."
The Ramblers would use the motivation from that loss — and the five before it — this year. Most of the team was coming back and they were determined to put an end to the streak this season. And on Saturday, they did just that. Loyola beat Lake Forest (Ill.) 6-4 for its first state championship since 2004.
Coach Rob Snyder, who has been at Loyola for all the losses, said it was great to finally come out on top.
"It was awesome for our kids," he said. "We have a bunch of guys who were four-year guys and a bunch of three-year guys as well. It was nice to see those guys go out winning as a senior class."
Loyola was once again the top team in Illinois entering the tournament. The Ramblers were 12-0 against in-state competition but had lost four of their last seven games to end the regular season. All four losses were against tough competition, but Loyola got a big wakeup call in the first round of the North American Lacrosse Invitational just a week before the start of the state tournament. Brother Rice, the top-ranked team in Michigan, delivered a 15-3 beating in what was, by far, Loyola's worst loss of the season.
"The Brother Rice game was the biggest reality check," junior midfielder Charlie Schatz said. "They smoked us. They came out and straight up killed us. We knew we needed to work harder to win the [state] championship."
While Loyola lost in overtime the next day to Hill Academy, a Canadian power, Snyder said he could already see the difference in his team.
The Ramblers returned to Illinois and won three games in a row to return to the state championship game for the seventh year in a row. Only this time, it wasn't New Trier waiting for them. The Trevians were ousted in the quarterfinals, ending their run of dominance.
Instead it was Lake Forest who also made the title game. Loyola had won the two teams' regular season meeting 7-3 and quickly found itself in another tight game with much more on the line.
The Ramblers took an early lead with two goals in the game's first 77 seconds. But the Scouts tied the score at two at the end of the first quarter. After Lake Forest's second goal, Steger gathered the defense in the crease.
"Relax, our offense has our back, we just can't let any more easy goals in," Steger told his teammates.
Loyola scored the next three goals to open a comfortable lead in the third quarter. From there, it held Lake Forest at bay, a task Snyder said was made easier thanks to Schatz's ability to win face offs and good team defense.
"The defense played really well all year," Snyder said. "That was a big thing for us."
Led by Steger, the defense came up big one more time late in the fourth quarter. With the Scouts down two, Steger knew they would have a last push left in them. When he made his 11th and final save of the game — the one that clinched the victory — Steger allowed himself to exhale and take it all in.
"The last four years flashed before my eyes, all the hard work," Steger said. "To end my high school career like that was unreal. It was one of the best feelings in the world."