It's been another outstanding season for the St. Viator boys lacrosse program.
Last week, attackman Dan O'Malley was named first team all-state and thus became the first Lions player to be named an All-American.
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On Tuesday, the Lions erupted on Benet in the Class A quarterfinals, taking an 11-1 lead into halftime and winning handily, 14-5. The No. 4 seed Lions face No. 1 seed New Trier on Thursday in the state semifinals.
"We had a great start and made great choices for the majority of the first half, getting us up early and often," St. Viator coach Bill Sanford said. "None of our possessions would not have been possible if not for the play of Jackson Owens at the face-off x. He was relentless."
Owens was responsible for slowing down Benet standout midfielder Jack Moran.
Sanford was also pleased with the defensive effort of Andrew Romano and goalie Stephen Bonica and the unselfish play of the team's offensive unit.
"Our offense was clicking. Our usual stat leaders Peter Trunk and Dan O'Malley did their part again, but others like Nick Winter (3 goals, 2 assists) and Mike Julius made great contributions," he said. "The coaching staff was pleased with the IQ and discipline we played with. We will need a similar approach against New Trier who will be in familiar territory."
Sharing the wealth:
Opposing teams haven't been able to slow the potent Grayslake Central offense much this season.
A lot of that has to do with the Rams' scoring balance, and it's helped them deliver three straight victories to open the postseason.
The Rams clobbered St. Lawrence 20-5 in their playoff opener and then knocked off Crystal Lake South, 18-6. They've outscored opponents, 214-124 and three of their four losses have come to Class A programs.
"We have been very balanced in scoring our first two playoff games," Grayslake Central coach Chris Ridella said. "Our face-off guys, Glen Stearns and Luke Herrmann, have been doing a great job along with our wing players getting us possession."
Against St. Lawrence, 10 different players scored for the Rams and then eight different players scored in the win over Crystal Lake South.
Scoring proved to be at a premium on Tuesday, but the Rams got just enough in a 4-3 victory over St. Rita in a quarterfinal contest.
With the game tied at 3-3, Ryan Aoki picked off a St. Rita pass to give the Rams possession and set up the game winner. The Rams moved the ball around until Tanner Hermes was able to connect with Aidan Connolly, who delivered the game-winner with 4 seconds left.
"It was a well played game on both sides," Ridella said. "St. Rita is a quality program and they played hard."
Goalie Kyle Dinsmore led the defense, getting plenty of support around him from Aoki, Stearns, Mason Smith, Ben Celeslie, Alex McCully, Connor Daly.
The win was No. 14 for the Rams, a school record. The team will face either Lake Zurich or Cary-Grove on Thursday in a semifinal.
One of the teams to watch in the DuPage County area next year will be Benet, which finished the season in strong fashion despite fielding a young squad and being forced to overcome injuries.
The Redwings, seeded No. 12 in the Class A playoffs, upset No. 5 Grayslake North 17-10 last Friday in a second-round game.
"Dominance at the face-off gave us possession and our first line midfielders were together for only the third game all season," Benet coach Rich Moran said. "They play so well together and know instinctively where each will be. It freed up our attack and our offense made good decisions on when to run and when to settle."
Controlling possessions proved key for the Redwings as they were able to limit Graylake North's powerful offense, and particularly A.J. Fish and Brendan Walker.
"We had sustained possessions that allowed our defense to rest and we finished most of the possessions with a score or took time off the clock," Moran said. "Our defense did an outstanding job on Grayslake's attack, which is very powerful."
Goalie Dan Weithers had 6 saves. Jack Moran and Liam Simes scored five times apiece and Will Mann added 4 goals in the victory.
The Redwings ran into a very tough St. Viator team in Tuesday's quarterfinals and saw their season come to an end with a 14-5 loss. They finished 12-5 overall.
Revenge of the Wildcats:
There's a reason why Libertyville goalie Cole Blazer is considered the best in the state.
Blazer was on his game and then some on Tuesday as he made 25 saves (86 percent) to help Libertyville upset Glenbrook North 7-5 in a Class A quarterfinal.
"This was a nice win," Libertyville coach Brady Sullivan said. "Glenbrook North upset us at Libertyville last season in the second round so our players were ready to return the favor this year."
Glenbrook North also defeated the Wildcats, 9-5, on April 27.
The Wildcats jumped ahead 3-0 and led throughout. They held Glenbrook North to just a single second-half goal.
Nick Ward (2 goals, 2 assists) and Nick Bagatti (2 goals) led the offense. Phil Santi, A.J. Schmidt and Luke Stelzner also scored.
This is the first time Libertyville has reached the Final Four since 2004.
Getting better and better:
As the sport of lacrosse grows, it's neat to track the progress of new programs, such as Bartlett.
Six years ago, the Hawks didn't even have a lacrosse program.
Now, they're coming off a 12-4 season that featured a big win over a Class A team at the end of the regular season and a victory in the Class B post-season tournament.
"While we didn't get past the second round of the playoffs, we played some great lacrosse for periods of the season and our guys certainly can be proud of that," Bartlett coach Mike Hernandez said. "I'd definitely say the highlight of our season was winning against St. Charles East in our regular-season finale. It was a culmination of a lot of hard work, so it felt very good to get that win."
This spring, seniors Michael Lively and Frank Rumoro and junior Steve Janaes led the defense while Jake Fernandez (.701 face-off pct., 157 groundballs) made a seamless transition to long stick midfielder and senior keeper Nick LoBosco (149 saves, 59 pct.) was strong in goal.
Mike Coleantonio (56 goals, 11 assists) and Vite DiPerte (34 goals, 23 assists) led the attack.
Nick Andreuccetti and Zach Sabova patrolled the midfield.
"They both were the true definition of a two-way midfielder," Fernandez said. "Standout defensive players who were always involved in our transitions and could jump start our offense with their strong dodging. They had the heart and lungs to run all day long."
The Hawks saw their season come to an end with a 14-9 loss to Cary-Grove in the second round.
"I had tough as nails young men crying like babies after the game," Fernandez said. "I told them 'the emotions you're showing right now prove that you gave this team everything you had, that you loved your team and your time at Bartlett lacrosse. You were all in and that alone makes this a successful season.'"
The great all-state:
Libertyville received the most recognition last week as the all-state teams were announced. Libertyville had three of the 11 first team selections as defender Kevin Verkler, goalie Cole Blazer and midfielder A.J. Schmidt were all selected. Other area players added to the team included Grayslake North attackman A.J. Fish, St. Viator attackman Dan O'Malley and St. Charles East long-stick midfielder Will De Bord.
Six players of note were named to the all-state second team, including Libertyville's Nick Ward, Lake Zurich's Grant Soucy, St. Viator's Billy Spingola, Grayslake North's Brendan Walker and Stevenson's Conor Okmin and Dan Meagher.
As anticipated, most of the teams that made the transition from NILAX to IHSLA struggled this spring. Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake South and Cary-Grove were the only teams to finish above .500. Cary Grove (13-4) has been the most impressive, winning twice already in the Class B tournament.
Batavia, Crystal Lake Central, Huntley and Jacobs combined to go 14-47 while Dundee-Crown and Hampshire only fielded JV squads.
Save the date:
This year's annual all-star game will have a different feel to it, at least by way of venue. Andrew, home of the Chiefs Lacrosse team, will host in Tinley Park on Thursday, June 6. The Class B game is set for 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by the Class A contest at 8 p.m. Teams are given a select number of roster spots based on their playoff seeds. Rosters have yet to be announced.