Playing in the Class A Illinois High School Lacrosse Association state championship game isn't anything knew to Loyola Academy, but winning it has eluded the Ramblers.
Competing on the high school sport's biggest stage for the seventh consecutive year, the Ramblers finally ended a six-year run of placing second to New Trier, holding off Lake Forest 6-4 on Saturday evening at Palatine High School.
Connor Person and Dan O'Malley each scored twice to lead the Ramblers to victory.
"For the last three years I've seen New Trier win this, and they're a great program," O'Malley said. "I've always wanted to be the kid who gets to throw his helmet and gloves in the air and go nuts. It happened this year and it's a great feeling."
Loyola (16-0) jumped on the Ramblers early, receiving goals from Brendan Dowdle and Person in the opening 1:17 of the first quarter to take a 2-0 lead.
"The difference in the game was when they came out and scored those quick ones," Lake Forest coach Dan Maigler said. "For the rest of the game it was even. I wish the game could've gone on for another hour."
Lake Forest (17-3) drew even at 2-2 after one quarter thanks to goals from Samuel Moran and Joseph Kurscher, but the Scouts never led.
O'Malley scored the lone goal of the second quarter to allow the Ramblers to take a 3-2 lead into halftime.
"We all work well together and I just happened to come up big," he said. "It's all with emotion and the team and how we all work. It sets us up for plays like that and today I just happened to be the guy to make them."
O'Malley's second goal at the 7:51 mark of the third quarter made it 4-2. Then, with 2:48 remaining, Tim O'Connor snuck in from behind the goal to extend the lead to 5-2. With momentum on their side, the Ramblers gave it right back when they yielded a goal to Andrew Clifford with just 12 seconds left before the fourth quarter. It seemingly sent some life back into the Scouts, who had endured an almost 30-minute scoreless drought.
"We really run a group defense where it's no individuals," Loyola defenseman Mike Schiappa said. "We worked really well together, never gave up and just tried to get it back to the 'O' to put in more goals."
Senior Ryan Tupper pulled the Scouts to within 5-4 with 7:30 left in the final quarter, but Person answered for the Ramblers about a minute later to make it a 6-4 contest.
"We just wanted to be within 3 goals in the fourth quarter," Maigler said. "What didn't happen for us was fastbreak goals and that's been the hallmark of our team, and it makes it pretty hard for us, especially against Loyola."
The championship victory was especially sweet for the Ramblers, certainly for the players who were on the opposite end in prior years.
"A couple of these guys have been here four years and a lot have been here three years," Loyola coach Rob Snyder said. "Obviously winning is huge for these kids."
The teams also met on April 27, a game which Loyola won, 7-3. It was the Ramblers first state title since 2004 and ninth overall. Lake Forest made its first state title appearance since 1998.