St. Francis lacrosse teams getting the best out of the Jania siblings
Sophomore midfielder Lucy Jania is quick on the draw -- literally -- for the St. Francis girls lacrosse team.
It runs in the family. Her junior brother, A.J., has brought stability to the faceoff position for the St. Francis boys team.
"I can take the draw right- and left-handed and I can place it anywhere I want to in the circle," she said, adding part of her responsibility is, "using your girls on the circle and tell them where to stand in order to get the ball."
It's working out just fine for St. Francis' girls, who are 6-3, much to the delight of coach Kevin Kloss.
Obviously, it takes a whole team to accomplish a winning record, especially at the midpoint of the season, but Kloss recognizes Lucy Jania's talents and how they play into the bigger picture.
"She's our No. 1 player, she's our top scorer and one of the top goal scorers in the state right now," he said. "On the draw she's doing awesome."
Lucy Jania played club ball at New Wave in her middle school years (now Team ONE Lacrosse) and so Kloss and his staff knew she would be an impact player. That she was right away, Kloss said, but she's also impacting team leadership, though she isn't a captain.
"Girls look to her during the game for advice," he said. "She knows what to do in most situations. She's definitely communicating more."
A.J. Jania was a second-line midfielder a year ago but stepped into the faceoff position this season and has been nothing short of sensational, according to first-year coach Matt Caliguiri, securing roughly 85 percent of his faceoffs.
"I took this role to help our team get to the next level and win games. Any way I can do that I'm happy with," A.J. Jania said.
Though for the moment St. Francis is winless, that's likely to change, along with the program's culture, thanks to the work A.J. Jania is doing that's so similar to his sister, such as leadership.
"I view my leadership style as a lead by example," he said. "I try to do things the right way and show my teammates how to do things the right way."
Game of the week:
Last spring Loyola Academy won the state girls lacrosse title. Hinsdale Central, which won the title in 2018, took third.
The two powers will face off at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Loyola, in Wilmette, which figures to be perhaps the best in-state game of the season of either gender.
At 8-2 overall, the Red Devils have roared during their usual challenging in-state schedule while going 2-2 in out-of-state play in Tennessee and most recently Michigan.
It's the first trip -- a 12-10 loss to Franklin April 8 and a 16-5 victory over Brentwood Ravenwood April 9 -- that was significant for team captains Annette Ciupek and Tessa Howe, both seniors.
"We had a turning point in Tennessee where we kind of started playing with more of a spark," Ciupek said. "I think our team has more chemistry that we've had before, and that's huge."
Added Howe: "For sure we had a turning point in Tennessee. I think people realized when we really play to our potential to be a powerhouse as a team, and it is nice to see the younger girls get more aggressive, and that takes time."
The captains are no slouches. Ciupek leads the Red Devils with 27 goals, while Howe had 26. As a team, Hinsdale Central has a whopping 140 goals.
But younger players like sophomores Parker Matthews and Daphne Venetsanopolous are stepping into the limelight.
"We are a young team, but they are playing as if they are a couple of years older," coach Matt McNiff said, "and it's good to see."
As for Thursday, it's game on.
"I think Loyola especially is a lot of our club teammates," Howe said. "On the offensive end especially, I think we have kind of a similar game. To beat a team like Loyola, you have to have possession. The draw is going to be huge for us."
Likewise for the Ramblers.
"We had the occasion to play them last year three times due to COVID, so we know they are very well coached team, very talented and very good on the draw circle, with some very talented offensive players," said Loyola coach John Dwyer. "A healthy rivalry has developed over the years, but it should be a battle as well."