May 7, 2013

Nike/US Lacrosse Midwest Region Report

by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com

Related: National Top 25 | Northeast | Mid-Atlantic | South | West

Top Performers

Erika Neuman, Rockford (Mich.)

With the Rams jumping out to a 9-0 start and making a strong case for inclusion in the regional Top 10, Neuman deserves a lot of credit for her team's success. After all, it's important to remember that Rockford was just 5-4 after nine games last season. Neuman with performances like her eight-goal outburst in the Rams' 10-4 win over Cranbrook Kingswood (Mich.) has put this season in a different direction. 

Nicole Stines, Upper Arlington (Ohio)

Much of the attention frequently falls on the Farwick sisters, but Stines has also proven herself as a superb midfielder, scoring five of the Golden Bears' 15 goals in a critical 15-14 win over Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio). Stines will be playing at the next level, as she will attend the University of Findlay next year. 

Sam Zwolan, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Mich.)

Zwolan has been piling up the goals for Ann Arbor Pioneer, and at times, her team has needed every one of them. Her five goals helped Ann Arbor Pioneer build a huge early lead that would nearly vanish in a 15-12 win over Flint Powers Catholic (Mich.). Earlier in the season, she matched five goals with five assists in an Ann Arbor Pioneer romp over Saline (Mich.). And when the competition got tough, Zwolan persisted, scoring four times against Lake Forest (Ill.).

Games to Watch

Edina (Minn.) vs. Montini Catholic (Ill.) – April 27

The Hornets' first stab at out-of-state competition didn't go so well, as they lost to Loyola Academy (Ill.) 16-5. That being said, Loyola Academy is an awfully tough way to begin a season.  This time, the Hornets should be a little more warmed up, and it will be a great chance to prove themselves against another rising power in the Broncos. The Broncos have amazed everybody with their fast start, but Edina will represent their first chance to prove themselves outside of the Land of Lincoln.

Loyola Academy (Ill.) at Lake Forest (Ill.) – April 30

If the Scouts are going to claim their place among the Land of Lincoln's elite, they'll eventually have to beat some of the state's top teams. Their first try against New Trier (Ill.) didn't go so well, as they fell 11-6. Thankfully for Lake Forest, plenty of chances remain as games against Lyons Township (Ill.) and Hinsdale Central (Ill.) help lead into a match against perennial powerhouse Loyola Academy. The Ramblers doubled up on the Scouts last season, 18-7. 

1. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 14-3

If the Ramblers' 4-3 start raised any eyebrows, it's safe to say that Loyola Academy is the team to beat per usual in the Midwest. The Ramblers have rattled off 10-straight wins, and their defense is in fine form, surrendering four or fewer goals in four of their last five games. That includes limiting Lake Forest (Ill.) and Hinsdale Central (Ill.) to four goals apiece and holding Brighton (Mich.) and Rockford (Mich.) to three goals apiece. During that five-game stretch, Loyola has outscored its opponents 85-22.

2. Mason (Ohio), 14-0

Barring a stunning upset by St. Ursula (Ohio), Mason will pull off a stunning move from a .500 to undefeated team in a single season. The Comets didn't exactly blow away the Buckeye State, with four of their 14 wins coming by three goals or fewer, and certainly Sycamore could bite them in the postseason, but for now it has been a remarkable run for Mason, which has held all but one opponent to single-digit scoring this season. Last season, they allowed 10 or more goals on nine occasions.

3. Medina (Ohio), 10-0-2

How did the Battling Bees go from unranked to number three in the region in two weeks? It's simple, they took on the best — and won. They began with a 7-4 victory over Upper Arlington (Ohio), previously ranked third in the region, and followed that up with wins over Hathaway Brown (Ohio), Okemos (Mich.) and East Grand Rapids (Mich.). They also managed a tie against a very good New Albany (Ohio) team. Still undefeated, Medina may well join Mason with a perfect record heading into the Buckeye State postseason.

4. East Grand Rapids (Mich.), 10-2

The Pioneers have laid a very clear claim to being the best team in the state of Michigan. Who else could make that claim? Catholic Central? East Grand Rapids outscored Catholic Central by a margin of 29-16 in two victories this season. Rockford? East Grand Rapids won at Rockford by five goals. Ann Arbor Pioneer? That one wasn't even close as East Grand Rapids won 11-2. Meanwhile, the Pioneers have continued to challenge themselves out-of-state, recently falling to Medina (Ohio) by a single goal.

5. Culver Academy (Ind.), 13-0

The Eagles aren't going to get quite as much credit as fellow undefeated squads, Medina and Mason, because competition in the Hoosier State isn't as tough. They haven't played the most challenging schedule and worked hard to defeat Carmel (Ind.) and Collegiate (Ky.). Still, 13-0 is 13-0, and Culver Academy's defense has been good all season, surrendering 10 or fewer goals in every game.

6. New Trier (Ill.), 10-3-1

A year ago, the Trevians plowed through Montini Catholic (Ill.) and the Blake School (Minn.) en route to a 23-3 season. This season, New Trier scrapped a little bit more, edging the Bears by a single goal and beating the Broncos in a high-scoring affair, 14-12. With Hinsdale Central and Sycamore still on the docket, New Trier has plenty of hard work in front of it, but the Trevians will hope that their contest against the Aviators will prepare them for a potential rematch with Loyola Academy, which has won nine straight over New Trier.

7. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 10-2

After a 7-4 loss to Medina (Ohio), the Golden Bears never looked back, winning four straight, including convincing victories over New Albany and Sycamore. Certainly, their defense needs to improve — they surrendered 17 goals to Walton (Ga.), 14 to Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio) and 17 to New Albany (Ohio) — but with an offense that has scored 51 goals in its last three games, anything is possible for the Golden Bears.

8. Montini Catholic (Ill.), 11-1

The Broncos have proven themselves as a force. They defeated Minnesota powerhouse Blake as well as Illinois contender Glenbrook South. They nearly pulled off a huge upset of New Trier. The one thing Montini Catholic has not done this season is win close games. All 11 of its wins have come by at least five goals. The Broncos are unlikely to rout any of their next three foes — Loyola Academy, Lake Forest and Lyons Township (Ill.).

9. Hinsdale Central (Ill.), 11-2

Lake Forest's 20-4 loss to Loyola Academy was dispiriting to say the least, especially given that Hinsdale Central played the Ramblers tough, without star Amy O'Grady, so the Red Devils will pass the Scouts in the rankings — for now. The Red Devils have scored 12-plus goals in all but two games this season, and coach Lindsay Owens is thrilled with a defense that held the Ramblers to just nine goals in their last outing.

10. Eden Prairie (Minn.), 7-1

It's hard to say which Minnesota team ought to make the regional top ten this week. Sure, the Blake School is just 1-2, but the Bears were competitive against both Montini Catholic (Ill.) and New Trier (Ill.) and dominant against Robbinsdale Armstrong (Minn.). The Bears might surge past the Eagles later on, but for now Eden Prairie simply has the wins, including a solid 11-8 victory over Minnetonka (Minn.) and an impressive 16-7 victory over Lakeville North (Minn.). The Eagles also gave the Ramblers a tough fight before bowing out, 10-6.

News and Notes

Man Down

Hinsdale Central could probably use Amy O'Grady right about now. After all, the Red Devils had games against Lyons Township and Loyola Academy. New Trier is up next. Combined, those three foes have a 35-11 record on the season. Unfortunately for Hinsdale Central, O'Grady suffered a knee contusion in the Lyons Township game.

It could have been worse.

"Thank God there's no structural damage. There's just a really bad contusion kind of in her knee," coach Lindsay Owens said. "She was practicing the other day. We're going to take it pretty slow, but she will be back for the postseason."

Without O'Grady in the lineup, the Red Devils lost just their second game of the season to the top-ranked Ramblers, 9-4. Even in the aftermath of that loss, Owens was pleased with her team's effort.

"We did fine with that," Owens said. "Our whole team stepped up amazing and everyone took a little portion of her position."

That's not to say that doing "fine" and five-goal losses are enough for Owens. As pleased as she was with her team's defensive effort — Hinsdale Central became the first team in the Midwest to hold Loyola to single-digit scoring this season — she told the Red Devils after their loss to the Ramblers that they are capable of far more.

"I told the team if you're within a few goals of Loyola, any team is going to be pretty confident, but I told them don't be satisfied with that." Owens said. "Be happy for now but don't be satisfied because you guys are good enough where you could win. You showed it tonight. If a few shots would have gone our way, if a few shots didn't go their way, it would be a different ballgame. I told them to be happy, but don't be satisfied. Always be wanting more."

Road Trip

Winning in Glenview is a feat in itself.

But Hinsdale Central's 15-10 victory over Glenbrook South (Ill.) on April 22 was a little more impressive than your average five-goal victory.

After all, while most people spend the weekend resting for the week ahead, the Red Devils were on a bus early Friday bound for the Great Lakes State. They shoveled a couple of fields, endured a delay or two, dealt with a rather slow bus driver according to Owens and managed a couple of wins, before heading home on Saturday night.

"It was definitely physically a lot for their bodies, but at the same time, they're smart," Owens said. "They know how to take care of themselves."

Sunday meant national team tryouts for "some of the girls," and Monday meant a match with the Titans. Owens made sure there was no rest for the weary, calling a timeout early to encourage sharper play.

"The biggest thing is just staying mentally tough and prepared and making sure we're ready at any time to play, especially with all of the rainouts and stuff and cancellations, we need to be ready whenever," Owens said. "We did come out slow but were able to rally back and come back for the 15-10 win. Again, I just told them, I called a timeout and said you've got to be here mentally."

Note: The Nike/US Lacrosse Regional rankings will not necessarily reflect the same order as the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll, which is voted on by US Lacrosse area representatives and Lacrosse Magazine contributors. LM contributors compile the regional rankings.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com every other Tuesday throughout the high school season for updates to the Nike/US Lacrosse Regional Girls' Top 10 rankings and the Nike/US Lacrosse National Girls' Top 25.


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