Beating your rival is always sweet, but this one meant a little extra.
The Saint Ignatius Varsity Blue lacrosse team entered Wednesday contest vs. St. Edward with a banged-up roster, with 10 players out due to injury. The JV Cats' 14-0 loss to St. Edward's hybrid varsity/JV squad also loomed large in many minds.
In an action-packed contest that went down to the wire, Wednesday's game was decided simply by who wanted it more. In the end, the Wildcats' will to win led to a victory. The Varsity Blue Cats defeated the Eagles' Varsity Green squad on Wasmer Field, 11-8.
The Wildcats finish the season with an 8-5-1 record.
In the first half, the Wildcats managed to build a modest lead. Freshman Braeden Lair played a critical role in obtaining possession on faceoffs and in controlling the ball as a midfielder. Lair has seen limited time on varsity as a FOGO after playing much of the year for the Varsity Blue Cats.
Ground balls also proved to be a large factor. Against a tough, physical Eagles squad, the Wildcats won 69% of the ground balls, showing a will to scrap and be physical to earn the ball.
Entering the third quarter, the Wildcats held a 5-2 lead. However, the Eagles utilized a dynamic man-up offense and smart clearing strategies to remain in the game, scoring 3 goals to bring the score to 7-5 at the start of the fourth.
"Heading into the the 4th quarter, I knew this was the defining moment of the entire season," said Varsity Blue Head Coach Bo Shim '92. "It was all about what teamed wanted it more!"
The start of the fourth belonged to the Eagles. The visitors managed to knot the score at 7-all with 9:20, but the score did not remain tied for long.
On the ensuing faceoff, Lair earned the win and passed it up to Matt Kempton. The freshman middie drove to the cage and drew a double-team. Kempton executed a perfect draw and feed to fellow freshman Luke Brunkholz, who deposited it in the back of the net.
Leading 8-7, the Wildcats burned three minutes off the clock. Brunkholz forced a turnover on a goal save, kickstarting a huge possession. Brunkholz swung the ball up to Aiden Latchford, who drew a defender and earned a key assist by passing it to an open Kyu Shim. The sophomore took a step down and fired it on net from 25 yards out, extending the lead 9-7. The Eagles responded with a goal at 2:23, narrowing the deficit to 9-8, but then Kyu called game.
With 1:45 seconds left, Shim took the ball on the clear, near St. Eagles' 45-yard line. Kyu broke through a double team to cross the midfield line, running full steam toward the cage. Shim dodged hard on a long stick defender and beat him. Shim shot a beautiful bouncer extending the lead to two goals with 1:35 left in the game.
Brunkholz set the final margin at 11-8 with a game-sealing goal just 18 seconds later.
The key for the team was believing that they could win," said Coach Shim. "It was clear that the boys wanted it more against a tough and physical St. Ed's team by winning the ground balls 69% of the time. The St Ed's team is well coached, they were able to score on every man-up offense and successfully clearing the ball. They were extremely effective in transition. Their goalie [junior Jackson McKeigue] made over 20 saves. However, our young Wildcats responded."
Indeed, the freshmen-heavy Wildcats defeated a more veteran Eagles squad. This is a titanic win for the freshmen class as they advance and develop inside of a juggernaut Wildcats program.
Youngsters, such as Lair, who finished at 65% at X, are the promising future of the program. Fellow freshman Drew Wynocker, a strong attacker, sophomore midfielder Jack Dunstan, sophomore Michael Mattimore, Kyu Shim, and excellent freshman goalie Logan Rechin will all receive call-ups to the top varsity squad for the OHSAA postseason.
Indeed, the future is bright for the Saint Ignatius lacrosse program. Congrats to Coach Shim (along with assistants Bill Beutler,
Rustom Khouri III ‘12, and Jacob Gries) and the Varsity Blue Cats on an outstanding season.