OHIO CITY, Oh - After falling in New York to #1 St. Anthony, the Wildcats began a five-game, nine-day stretch and came out perfect on the other side. Their wins came against defending Michigan and Ohio state champions Brother Rice (MI) and Dublin Jerome, #2-ranked in Michigan Hartland and Massillon Jackson and University School. Having reached 7-1 on the season and 4-0 at home, it's clear that this year's Wildcat lacrosse team is one of the best in program history.
First, on a road trip to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Drew Wynocker scored seven goals to lead the Wildcats to a 12-11 win against USA Lacrosse's #1 team in Michigan and #6 Midwest-ranked team, Brother Rice. The Wildcats have now won two in a row against the best team in the Mitten State, going back to last year's 9-7 win on Wasmer Field. This was undoubtedly the biggest win of the season for the Wildcats up to this point.
Next up was a game against University School at home for the Wildcats on Monday, April 4. The Wildcats went up big with an 11-0 lead in the first half before coming away with the 14-2 win. Kevin Bradley was named player of the game for the Wildcats for his play as a defensive midfielder, including two goals on this night.
In the middle of these five games was another significant win for the Cats at Massillon Jackson high school. Coming away with a firm win was the Wildcats, 13-5. After two days to recover, the Wildcats would finish with two games at home.
The Wildcats were 5-1 with two crucial matchups on deck before the weekend. First, the Dublin Jerome Celtics, 2021 OHSAA Division I State Champions and eliminators of the Wildcats from the 2021 Final Four came to Wasmer Field for one of the best matchups in the state of the season. Dublin Jerome entered this game with their last loss coming almost a year prior, 13-12 against Hudson on April 23, 2021. With revenge on the mind, the Wildcats once again, as they did against Hudson, played close in the first half before dominating the second half and pulling a blowout win out of nowhere.
"It is all about our clearing," says Connor Grace. "We have always talked about our passes and starting our fast breaks to lead to goals."
After two quarters, the Wildcats were up 8-6, and over the next two quarters, the Wildcats outscored the Celtics 7-2, holding the Celtics scoreless in the fourth quarter. This was the new biggest win of the season for the Wildcats.
"It was nice learning from Mike Mattimore '21 last season," says Kevin Bradley. "He was a great role model and I try to model my game after his."
The confidence earned by knocking off the defending state champion and the authority of a seven-goal win meant these Wildcats were already ready for the playoffs with over a month left in the season. However, nine games remained to prepare for the playoffs in the regular season. Their next chance to prove themselves came the following day.
Once again, from Wasmer Field, one of the best teams in the Midwest, Hartland High School's Eagles, the 2021 State Runners-up to Brother Rice, believed their game against the Wildcats was a chance to prove themselves on the regional level. They were wrong. Although the Wildcats only won by a score of 13-11, the Wildcats led by as many as six in this game, with the score being 12-6 after three quarters. A fourth-quarter surge against an easing-up Wildcats narrowed this win to only two goals.
"We're playing good team ball all around," explains Drew Wynocker. "Our defense has played strong; they have been awesome for us this season."
The Wildcats advanced to 7-1, better than the previous two seasons through eight games, 5-3 in 2019 and 6-2 in 2021, both of which ended in a final four.
Can this be the year that Saint Ignatius Lacrosse wins its first state championship? Looking at the state of Ohio, there is no reason to believe it won't be. The Wildcats are the best-ranked team in the state in USA Lacrosse's Midwest Regional Rankings, coming in at #3 behind #1 Culver (IN) and #2 Loyola Academy (IN). The Wildcats will face the #1 ranked Culver Academy Eagles on April 23 on Wasmer Field, following an April 20 match-up at home vs. North Canton Hoover. If the Wildcats win their next two games, they will have made a stronger case than anybody to be ranked the top squad in the Midwest.