The final game of the 2019 season flowed perfectly for the Saint Ignatius lacrosse program.
The Wildcats earned an early lead, played all of the team's seniors, got a running clock, and ultimately earned a bid to the Regional Final.
The Lax Cats captured a 17-5 victory over North Canton Hoover on Tuesday, advancing to the Regional Final for the seventh straight season. The Wildcats will play Shaker Heights on Friday at Revere High School at 7 pm for the right to advance to the State Semifinal.
"When we were warming up, you could tell it was special," said Associate Head Coach Joe Boehm '05. "It's the last time our seniors come out onto the field carrying the flag. We told our team before the game, 'Let's make it special for them. Everyone else do their job so these seniors can enjoy it.' They came out and played a nice game."
Jack Moriarity started the scoring early, just over a minute into the game off a nice assist from Merick Hartley. Nate Conry then tallied his first goal since winning the Wirtz Athlete of the Year award. Michael Boehm ripped home a shot to make it 3-0 before a penalty struck the Wildcats. But even a man-down couldn't stop the Cats. John Coughlin broke down the field off a steal and lofted it to Kenneth Klubnik. The sophomore made a nifty move for an important goal.
The Vikings narrowed the deficit to 4-1, but the Wildcats pocketed the last three goals of the first quarter. Merick Hartley did his typical magic trick from the wing, off a Joey Morford pass. Griff "Biggie" Gerard scored the next two goals, off assists from Boehm and Connor Cmiel. Biggie's dekes to the net stood as a big highlight of the early goings.
The goals kept coming in the second stanza. Boehm tallied his second tally of the day off a Klubnik assist. Hartley used a pass from Boehm to score. Hartley then supplied an apple on a Mort masterpiece. Conry and Cmiel formed a deadly combo on the next goal, before Charlie Ellis completed the Cats' scoring with a breakaway goal, his first of the season.
Ellis' goal was one of many breakaway goals for the Wildcats in a 12-2 first half.
"It was fun to see Charlie Ellis get his first goal of the year," Coach Boehm said. "After halftime, all of our seniors got to all start out there, so that was pretty fun. We did our job in the first half to be able to do that."
All of the team's seniors took the field at the start of the second half. Many seniors played for much of the third quarter, helping to spur the Wildcats onto further success. Connor Cmiel opened the scoring with a breakaway goal before Merick Hartley completed his hat trick at 8:55 of the third off a Cmiel assist. Boehm completed his hat trick to initiate the running clock. Mort completed the third-quarter scoring with a netter off a Cmiel assist, setting the margin at 16-4.
One senior stuck out in particular on defense on Tuesday.
"Senior George Souris was the beast, laying lumber and being a meathead and lighting kids up in the previous game vs. Hoover, so it was exciting to see him lead the team out with a stride of pride in the victory formation as the team was getting fired up in pregame," said assistant coach Brian Holzheimer '05. "This been such a great senior class, contributing for all four years everyday and during the offseason workouts. Souris led the team in what we call the 'Effort Award,' which is a combination of workouts and captains' practices. He's been busting his butt all year round. A great class and a great group of guys, great to see them off with a great victory at home."
The fourth quarter passed by quickly, with a goal apiece. Youngsters such as Logan Rechin, Kyu Shim, Michael Mattimore, Max Hartley, and Braeden Lair enjoyed significant playing time. Mattimore and Shim combined on the lone tally in the fourth quarter, completing the 17-5 victory.
"We've told our guys that if they play their game, we know we can advance," Coach Boehm said. "Our starters were in there a little longer than we thought they would be today, but Hoover was running a zone, so we took a little bit of time to work on our zone offense, just in case we see it. It's a pretty similar zone to St. Xavier, and you never know ultimately where we're going to end up. We're focused on execution. Go out there, do our job, play the game that we're been playing all year. If we do that, we put ourselves in a great position to win."
"Coach Boehm always talks about doing the little things," Holzheimer said. "That's something we always try to point out with the kids. Doing the smart play rather than the flashy play. Be smart and put the ball in the back of the net. And then play as a team. We moved the ball well in transition. The team played great. We're excited to play Shaker, the No. 2 seed in the region. They have a lot of good, athletic kids and they're having a great season. We're excited about another challenge and the chance to play them. We still have a lot of work to do to get to our peak and play our best game."