A daunting task faced the Saint Ignatius lacrosse program heading into a two-game set in Indiana.
The Wildcats had experienced a significant setback the weekend before, losing an 18-8 decision to Brother Rice in Michigan. A lengthy trip to Indiana to play two other top programs from the Midwest awaited the Wildcats this weekend.
Thanks to strong senior leadership and all-around solid play, the Lax Cats rose above the challenges with grace.
The Wildcats toppled MICDS (Mo.) on Saturday, 14-8, and Cathedral (In.) on Sunday, 11-8, in two impressive victories.
The significance of these two wins cannot be overstated. Defeating two of the Midwest's best programs on back-to-back days is incredible. The conquest of MICDS (Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School) is particularly prolific. MICDS entered as the No. 3 team in the Midwest, according to Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse's Regional Coaches Poll.
"The two wins this past weekend in Indianapolis were huge for the whole program," said Director of Lacrosse Operations Garen Distelhorst '96. "The coaches did an amazing job of adjusting after a tough loss to Brother Rice and the players put together an excellent, physical week of practice leading into these two games. The win against MICDS, the 3rd ranked team in the Midwest, certainly ranks among the biggest regular season wins in program history."
From the very start of Saturday's showdown vs. MICDS, the Wildcats were ready to go. The men of Ohio City roared out of the starting gate with a purpose. The Wildcats pelted the net with shots, peppering the men of Missouri with 17 shots. Six of those found twine.
Three Wildcats combined for the six goals in the first stanza. Jack Moriarity kickstarted the offense off a pass from Charlie Kinzel. Mort then assisted Michael Boehm on a tally before notching a goal on his own. Merick Hartley ripped home his first of three goals off a pass from Connor Cmiel. Boehm tallied his second goal of the day before helping Hartley bury the final marker of the quarter, granting the Wildcats a 6-1 lead.
The Lax Cats struck twice again before MICDS found a response. Camden Kurtz rocked a shot home off an apple from Moriarity. Hartley then earned his hat trick with 3:34 left in the half. MICDS scored at 3:08, but then Moriarity and Cmiel each scored unassisted tallies before the end of half.
The flurry of offense shocked MICDS, leaving the Rams in a 10-2 hole.
The Rams' coaching staff employed a new offensive strategy in the second half, leading to a comeback in the third. MICDS possessed the ball 13 times and recorded 11 shots. Charlie Minerd saved three of them, but three Rams shots found the back of the net to narrow the deficit to 10-5. Moriarity scored his fourth and final goal of the day with 1:25 left in the quarter, extending the lead to 11-5.
MICDS managed to score a few goals in the final 12 minutes, but a drastic comeback would not be allowed to take place. Defender John Coughlin ensured that, helping the Wildcats win the ground ball battle, 8-3.
Boehm boomed his third and fourth goals of the afternoon and Kinzel penciled his first of the day, securing a 14-8 win for the Wildcats.
With the exception of faceoffs (14-12), the Wildcats won every statistical battle. The Lax Cats enjoyed a 46-26 advantage in shots, 29-18 margin in ground balls, 53-43 in possessions, and tallied 12 successful clears to just 1 failed clear.
Moriarity and Coughlin enjoyed particularly exceptional games. Mort's 4 goals on offense and Coughlin's 6 ground balls on defense paved the way for the upset win in a game that Inside Lacrosse pegged as one of the best 10 games in the country before the season.
"John Coughlin had a great MICDS game," said assistant coach Joe Boehm '05. "He covered Graham Bundy, who on paper – according to Inside Lacrosse's rankings – is the best senior midfielder in the country. John held him to one goal. Bundy went on to have 6 points versus Upper Arlington the next day."
In the aftermath of one of the best regular season wins in program history, the Wildcats remained focused and did not have a letdown.
On a cold Sunday against the host school, Cathedral High School, the Wildcats breathed fire in the first half, just like on Saturday. Nate Conry started the scoring at the 9:40 mark, followed later by a Boehm goal. Cathedral scored once, keeping the score at 2-1 Cats.
The Wildcats' offensive engine revved up in the second stanza. Moriarity fueled the start of the explosion, scoring at 9:17. Boehm followed suit with a goal less than a minute later and Cathedral could not stop the train. Moriarity whistled home a goal at 7:18, increasing the lead to 5-1. The Irish narrowed the gap with a goal at 5:14, but Cmiel tabbed two goals in the waning minutes to send the Wildcats into the break with a 7-2 advantage.
Conry stretched the lead further early in the third, but Cathedral mounted a comeback with 3 straight goals in the third. The hosts narrowed the gap to 8-5 by the end of the period, making it a game again.
The Irish steamrolled ahead to start the fourth. Cathedral tallied back-to-back-to-back goals to knot the contest at eight with just over five minutes to play. The Wildcats burned a timeout to talk strategy and make adjustments. The new approach worked quite well.
In the final five minutes, the Wildcats slammed the door shut. Hartley scored the game winner at 4:53 with Conry providing an apple on the beauty. Cmiel padded the lead with an insurance goal at 2:18, an unassisted marvel. Moriarity added the exclamation point with time winding down, cementing a 11-8 victory and a 2-0 weekend record for the Wildcats.
Despite Cathedral's comeback, the Wildcats still saw great performances all across the field. Minerd turned away 9 Cathedral shots. Jack Welcsh cupped five ground balls, as did Cmiel. Both Cmiel and Moriarity recorded hat tricks.
One of the best players on the field this weekend was Jack Moriarity. The captain finished with 7 goals and 3 assists, both team highs for the weekend. Mort also gobbled up four ground balls to round out an great effort.
"Mort had a huge weekend," said assistant coach Joe Boehm '05. "The team really feeds off of his scoring. He takes it personally if the other team puts their #1 D-pole on Mike [Boehm]. Jack takes advantage of his matchup everytime."
Minerd also deserves plenty of kudos for his excellent effort in net. The junior stonewalled both foes with 20 combined saves in clutch efforts.
Following these two confidence-boosting wins, the Wildcats head to North Canton Hoover on Wednesday. The Wildcats then have a date with Culver Academy, the top ranked team in the Midwest and No. 4 squad in the country, on Saturday at the University of Notre Dame at 3 pm.