After a game where a whole lot didn't go Palatine's way, coach Joe Grzybek wasn't about to let a 15-9 loss to Loyola Academy detract from a great season.
The Pirates lost a game they wanted to win, but their coach felt like a winner anyway.
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"Hands-down, that's the best game we played this season," said Grzybek of his Mid-Suburban championship team. "It's not the outcome we wanted, so that's disappointing. But you want to finish a season with your best game, and I really think we did that."
Loyola (29-5), advances to meet tournament Stevenson (27-7) in Saturday's semifinals. The Patriots got ahead by a comfortable margin early in their quarterfinal and coasted past Brother Rice 12-7.
Palatine (24-10) had a hard time staying with the MCAC champions early, as a pair of succesful early lob shots from Ragen Murphy and three goals from all-state shoo-in Cameron Shewchuck helped the Ramblers to a 6-3 lead after the first quarter.
Pirates senior Kristiyan Kalev kept things close, scoring all 3 of the those first-quarter Palatine goals, and his team's only goal of the second period at Loyola led 10-4 at the half.
It got bleaker for Palatine at the start of the third quarter, as three consecutive goals put Loyola up 13-4.
But Kalev scored again, and senior co-captain Wally Kleinfeldt got his first goal -- before another unfortunate break for the Pirates.
Senior Omar El Hoffi was head-butted by a Loyola player, and needed to leave the game for medical attention. He didn't return to the game, and instead headed to get stitches.
"He's fine," said Grzybek. "With Omar, you can't tell if he's done something great, or something maybe he shouldn't have done -- he's always smiling."
The third quarter finished with Palatine trailing 14-6. They outscored Loyola 3-1 in the fourth as Kleinfeldt scored again and Kalev, on his way to a game-best 7 goals, scored twice.
Shewchuck and Murphy led Loyola with 4 goals each as time ran out on the Pirates' season.
What made the game difficult for Palatine was the Ramblers' skill with sending double and even triple teams at Kleinfeldt near the goal.
"They were really swarming me, no doubt about it," Kleinfeldt said. "It wasn't unexpected, but they're really good at it."
The touranment exit caps a season in which Palatine came up 1 victory short of matching the program record for victories in a season.
But Grzybek is nothing but pleased with the way his group performed.
"We were down, but I'm proud of the effort everybody gave to get us back in it," he said. "This group? Ten out of ten times, I'd coach these guys."