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updated: 6/5/2011 11:14 PM

Wood, Waubonsie Valley grow together

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  • Waubonsie Valley celebrates the result of talent meeting teamwork, with a Lacrosse Cup victory over Grayslake North in Oak Park on Saturday.

      Waubonsie Valley celebrates the result of talent meeting teamwork, with a Lacrosse Cup victory over Grayslake North in Oak Park on Saturday.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent

Waubonsie Valley's all-American and all-state senior Zach Wood garners a lot of attention on the field from opposing teams and in the stands from lacrosse fans.

While Wood, who scored six times, was imperative to the Warriors winning a Lacrosse Cup on Saturday, it's taken a team effort and so many contributors for the team to end its season with a trophy.

"Last year we really only had a few players for offense and this year everyone scores," Wood said. "It's not been one individual all season. We all came together as a team and believed what we could do and did it."

Players such as Scott Brown, Blake Erwin, Brett Erwin, Kyle Fortsch, Evan LaPoe, Connor Mersch, Blaze Miller, Conner Mellor and Nick Rodgers all stepped up and had great seasons for a Warriors team which took its first steps toward the title during the preseason North/South Shootout the third weekend in March.

Waubonsie Valley coach Michael Julius used that time in March to check out offensive and defensive schemes in a tournament featuring A-Class teams, including St. Charles, Wheaton Warrenville South, Neuqua Valley, Naperville North and last year's Cup champion, Wheaton North.

The Warriors went 2-2 in the North/South shootout. They finished their regular season with a 16-1 record. Their only loss was a 13-11 decision to Naperville North on April 16.

The success story: During winter, four years ago, St. Viator lacrosse Bill Sanford was helping coach a freshman B basketball team. He saw a player who had a quick first step, was left-handed, saw the floor pretty well and had some athleticism.

The kid, Brian Goss, knew absolutely nothing about lacrosse.

Four years later and that same kid has committed to play NCAA Division I lacrosse at Sienna College, a team which just finished a historic season where it was ranked 20th in the final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll.

"Coach brought me into his office and said give it a try," Goss said. "I just fell in love with the sport, have been playing nonstop ever since and was blessed to pick it up quickly."

Goss picked up a crosse for the first time during his freshman year and struggled with the concepts and stick skills but quickly got more exposure.

By sophomore year, he was starting on the varsity.

"Some of these kids can take a giant leap once they get the bug, so to speak," Sanford said. "Then they never look back and it's a sport that you can get better at every day."

The development of a player like Goss is a prime example of how St. Viator has risen into prominence in the highest level of high school lacrosse in the state. What's amazing about the Lions is they've done it with kids from Arlington Heights and Palatine, two cities that are by no means the hotbed of youth lacrosse. These same kids are first picking up crosses as freshmen and playing for a program lacking structure and a feeder program.

"This year we have 15-16 seniors who have all kind of bought into taking that next step," Sanford said. "I knew it would take some time to get our program in place to where we wanted it to be and these kids beat some really great teams, and enjoyed themselves while they did it. They've really worked their butts off and their accomplishments have been pretty incredible."

The Lions compiled a 14-2 record in the IHSLA this spring and advanced to the A-Class semifinals where Loyola Academy ended their season with a 12-1 victory. The Lions beat Loyola 5-4 in two overtimes on April 26. Loyola advanced to the state championship for the sixth straight year.

Chad Holsworth, a senior attacker, said looking back at the progression he and his teammates have made in four years is hard to believe.

"It's remarkable and unbelievable at the same time," he said. "Unbelievable is overused, but the amount of growth we've had as individuals lacrosse-wise and IQ-wise really is unbelievable."

Holsworth will play club lacrosse at Indiana University next year, but like his fellow senior teammates, will never forget the progression and years spent on the lacrosse field under Sanford.

"All the seniors have grown closer than you can ever imagine and it's all because of playing a team sport," he said. "They've all been so supportive and really challenged me to push myself and it's for a sport I had never heard of coming into high school."


Chasing Trevians and Ramblers: When New Trier and Loyola Academy finally dried out after an almost two-hour rain and lightning delay on Saturday, they took the field for the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association title for the seventh straight year.

Hours earlier, Cary-Grove and Jacobs met for the second straight June for the Northern Illinois Lacrosse Association championship. The teams have a ways to go if they want to catch up to what the Trevians and Ramblers have done annually, but at least for their sake their rivalry is a competitive one as New Trier has beaten the Ramblers seven straight times.

Led by the defensive play of Jeremy Gottardo and Ryan Steele and a dominant effort in winning the groundball game, Jacobs beat Cary-Grove 8-3.

"I'm very proud of my players for going strong for a full 48 minutes of relentless, attacking soccer," Jacobs coach John Bigler said.

Alex Crescenti and Brenton Cosden both scored twice for the winners. Cary-Grove was led by Paul Snyder's 2 goals.

Lucky No. 7: There were at least seven players from Illinois who were on the rosters of teams that participated in this year's NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship Tournament.

It included Stevenson grad Jarrid Puzes who played for national champion Virginia. The Cavaliers became the lowest seed in history (seventh) as well was the team with the most losses (5) to win the national title.

Other players included Denver's Matt Barry (St. Viator), which advanced to the semifinals, Hartford's Tim Engel (Stevenson), Hofstra's James Raveret (Glenbard West), Notre Dame's Dan Schmitt (Fremd), Siena's Pat Kileen (St. Charles North) and Syracuse's Matt Harris (Stevenson).

All-Star week: The IHSLA and NILAX might have crowned team champions after last weekend, but that doesn't mean there's no more high school lacrosse.

The NILAX will host its annual all-star game on Tuesday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Huntley High School. Cary-Grove and Jacobs lead the way with seven selections while Aurora Christian/Batavia and Prairie Ridge each had five players selected.

The IHSLA will have its all-star games on Thursday, June 9. The B-Class game will start at 6:15 p.m. and be followed by the A-Class game at approximately 8 p.m. The games will be held at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Of local interest in the A-Class, St. Viator led the way with four selections. St. Viator is sending middie Brian Goss, attacker Chad Holsworth, middie Mike Krzoska and long-stick middie Conner Murphy. St. Charles will have three players in action, including defender Trace Evans, middie Brian Sullivan and goalie Pat McGushin, and Wheaton Warrenville South is sending middle Seth Fuller and defender Jacob Kazar. Several other area schools will also be represented.

In the B-Class game, Waubonsie Valley and Grayslake North will once again square off just like they did in the Lacrosse Cup on Sunday as both teams have five players on the all-star roster. Grayslake Central is sending four players to Lisle, including middies Pete Ota and Kyle Engdahl, defender Lee Brown and attacker Nick Hermes. Lake Zurich has three players on the all-star roster, including scorer Ryan Faetz. Geneva was also rewarded for a strong postseason and defender Joe Cella and middie Ryan Solon will represent the Vikings.