Nike/US Lacrosse Midwest Season Rewind
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Year-End Top 10
1. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 23-3
2. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 16-2
3. Sycamore (Ohio), 14-5
4. Mason (Ohio), 17-1
5. Montini Catholic (Ill.), 15-3
6. Blake School (Minn.), 16-3
7. East Grand Rapids (Mich.), 19-2
8. Culver Academy (Ind.), 21-1
9. Carmel (Ind.), 18-3
10. Medina (Ohio), 14-1-2
Midwest Player of the Year
Maggie Nick, Loyola Academy (Ill.)
There are a lot of reasons why Loyola Academy won its fifth straight title at the end of May.
There's Katherine Eilers, a do-everything senior midfielder for the Ramblers. There's Grace Foley, "the best defender in the state," according to Loyola coach John Dwyer. There's Anna Schueler, a two-sport star who might just be the best athlete in the state in Dwyer's eyes. And there's first-team All-State goalkeeper Mary Kate Vanecko.
But at the end of the day, junior midfielder Maggie Nick might just be the best player on the team — and the region.
"We had a team that was loaded with four unbelievably quality seniors and any one of them could have been considered for MVP of the state, but I think Maggie just had that year," Dwyer said. "She did it all, and I think sometimes to the victors go the spoils."
Nick was a big part of why Loyola emerged as victors on 23 separate occasions.
She scored clutch goals from the beginning of April — when she tallied four goals, one assist and four draw controls in Loyola's 13-9 victory over No. 8 Milton (Ga.) — to the beginning of June — when she led the way against Montini Catholic (Ill.) in the state championship game with four goals and five draw controls.
Nick handed Montini Catholic its second loss of the season as well with five goals, one assist, three ground balls and five draw controls on May 9. She also tallied four ground balls, three goals, two assists, and one caused turnover to hand East Grand Rapids (Mich.) its first loss in nearly two years.
Facing fellow Great Lake State power Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Mich.), she had six goals and two assists. Against local rival Lake Forest (Ill.), she had five goals. In a key matchup with Glenbrook South (Ill.), she posted five goals, two assists and four draw controls.
"Going into those big games, I really focus on giving it my all and trying my best because I know how valuable each play is and how important each possession is," Nick said. "Going into the game, getting excited, getting pumped up and just knowing that you have to bring it because it's going to be a tough game. I think it's definitely easier playing harder teams. That gets me more excited."
Nick finished her junior year with 111 points on 75 goals and 36 assists in addition to 85 draw controls, 72 ground balls, 12 interceptions and 33 caused turnovers.
"It was just so fun," Nick said. "I would describe the whole journey like that. Getting a bigger role on the team and being a bigger part of things just makes everything more exciting and you feel more satisfied when your team wins because you know you contributed."
Though Nick might not have as many goals as some of the elite attackers in the region, including New Trier's Kelsey Murray, Dwyer said her yeoman's work as a midfielder puts her in a different category — even than Murray, who remains one of his favorite players.
"Maggie is down there playing hard on defense and getting the ball back," Dwyer said. "Elite attackers are great because they're great finishers and they can get goals, but you got a midfielder that's playing 100 percent of the field as opposed to 60 percent of the field. It's a different animal."
And the best part for Dwyer is that Nick has one more year.
"When I was reading her information for the banquet, I was like, 'Wow, we were really lucky to have her playing for us this year. We're even luckier to have her coming back next year,'" Dwyer said.
And Nick's got a pretty good idea of what she can do better.
"I definitely think I have a lot of room for improvement," Nick said. "I really focus on trying to increase my assists. This year, that's what I had as my main goal, so I hope to continue that next year, and just really being a dominant force on the draw circle. I'd say just increasing my accuracy with my shot and being able to do different fakes because that can only get better."
Spotlight On ...
Montini Catholic (Ill.)
When Montini Catholic played Minnesota powerhouse The Blake School earlier this season, the Broncos did not know much about their opponent so they played fearlessly and won 15-10.
In the state semifinal against New Trier, that wasn't quite the case. The Trevians are known and feared in Illinois. And yet the Broncos believed.
"We didn't play a flawless game against New Trier, but there was this sense of we really felt as though we belong in the state championship game," coach Michelle Sebastian said. "We really felt as a team as though we were one of the top teams in the state and that we belonged there."
Their resulting 17-15 victory meant a lot to the team.
"We're a little school of 700 kids. We beat a school that basically cuts every team and there's 4,200 kids at the school. Really, they know that anything is possible," Sebastian said. "We're the first team to beat New Trier outside of Loyola in the state since Virginia [Kosenkova] and I were at Hinsdale Central in 2007. We played our best lacrosse game of the year in the semifinals. Everything worked out."
It also meant a lot to the rest of the state.
"That opened up a door," Sebastian said. "I've had all of these other coaches saying, 'Wow, you guys beat New Trier.' It opens up the possibilities for everyone else that you can really accomplish that, and especially when they find out that so many girls on my team just started freshman year. You can really do anything, and that's really never happened in the state before."
The Broncos benefited in 2013 from a pair of transfers in Frankie Kamely (40 goals, 19 assists) and Francesca LoVerde. LoVerde will play lacrosse for the University of New Hampshire next season, and Sebastian will also lose a longtime favorite in Fran Meyer (46 ground balls), whom she has known since Meyer was 10 years old. Sebastian was Meyer's first coach, and she said that it will be hard watching Meyer walk away.