There they sat, clumps of 2017 Loyola Academy graduates, in the stands at Hinsdale Central High School for the inaugural Illinois High School Association (IHSA) boys lacrosse state championship last weekend.
The former Ramblers/current spectators had been on the team that lost 9-6 to New Trier’s Trevians in the final Illinois High School Lacrosse Association (IHSLA) boys lacrosse state title game last spring.
“We played tonight for those freshmen in college,” Ramblers junior middie Najee Taylor said June 2. “We knew they were up there.
“We saw them.”
The ’17 lax men and others witnessed LA — in complete control from the first face-off to the celebratory flinging of sticks and gloves and helmets — dismantle rival New Trier 7-2. The victory also avenged LA’s 5-3 loss to NT May 1 and knotted the all-time record in LA-NT boys lacrosse state championship games at 12-12.
“Our theme today, and it’s what I told our players after mass, was, ‘Play for the championship, not to beat our rival,’ ” Ramblers coach Rob Snyder said. “The face-offs we won early, the start [3-0, after one quarter] we got off to, how we possessed — big factors, all of them. Possession was huge for us today, a big deal, because it kept our defense fresh, and a fresh defense enabled us to press the way we wanted to press against a team with dodge-heavy players [junior attacks Henry Freedman, Henry Scherb and Dylan Bruno] up top.”
Loyola Academy (22-3) needed only 35 seconds to tally the game’s first goal. Junior middie Timmy Hackett gave those clumps of former players a reason to stand and cheer with the first of his two goals.
Ramblers senior attack Andrew Forsyth struck for a goal a little more than three minutes later, and Taylor, easily one of the most exciting players in the state, released a dazzling pass to senior attack Quinn Callahan, who capped the scoring in the first frame with the first of his three goals at the 1:56 mark.
“Shifty, isn’t he?” Callahan said of Taylor, who verbally committed to play lacrosse at the University of Notre Dame. “Najee does anything he wants to do on a lacrosse field, and whatever it is, he usually does it well.”
The 5-foot-11 Taylor — one of six Loyola Academy IHSLA all-staters, a wideout/cornerback in football and a Des Plaines resident — picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time as a 4-year-old in Cockeysville, Maryland.
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Taylor’s game in Illinois has been electric for years, with the way he darts and dashes and distributes. He used his stick webbing and superb instincts to dish a trio of assists (to go with a goal) in LA’s 15-7 defeat of Naperville North in a state semifinal at HCHS May 31. His combined four assists in two state games last weekend upped his total to a team-best 26.
At the other end of the field in last weekend’s state championship tilt, with LA owning a 5-2 lead in the third quarter, Taylor thrust his stick due north to deflect a rapid shot from New Trier junior middie Gavin Randle.
“Najee,” Snyder said, “does some great stuff out there. He gets to the cage, draws double teams. People come after him.”
People fire shots at LA junior goalie Dominic Urukalo. Shot takers come away empty, often. The 2017 All-American and 2018 IHSLA all-stater allowed only a goal from Randle and a goal from New Trier senior middie Johnny Maday and collected 14 saves in the state final.
“Lights out — that’s how he played,” said Callahan, a Glenview resident who played most of his youth hockey with a Kenilworth-based lacrosse club, which also developed many of NT’s current players.
“Clutch guy,” Taylor added. “A rock, a great goalie. We love playing when he’s in goal.”
Ramblers sophomore attack Kaden Keller provided a team-high two assists in the final. Scherb had New Trier’s lone assist.
“We made a million unforced errors,” Trevians coach Tom Herrala said. “Their goalie played well, and their team played well.”
New Trier (21-4) topped a strong team from Cincinnati (St. Xavier) 9-6 May 5 to avenge an 11-7 home loss April 14 and stayed with a 15-2 Culver Academies (Indiana) squad before falling 9-5 April 27.
“We had grinders, good fighters,” added Herrala, whose Trevs racked up a combined eight goals in the middle quarters of a 10-4 defeat of Glenbard West’s Hilltoppers in a state semifinal May 31.
Notable: In addition to Loyola Academy junior middie Najee Taylor and junior goalie Dominic Urukalo, LA senior defenseman Luca Lazzaretto, senior attack Andrew Forsyth, junior middie Tim Hackett and senior defenseman Quinn Cashion earned 2018 Illinois High School Lacrosse Association all-state honors. The IHSLA also named New Trier senior defenseman Nate Carlton, senior middie Johnny Maday and junior attack Henry Scherb all-staters. … LA boys lacrosse coach Rob Snyder improved his 15-year-old record at the school to 275-84 (.766) with two state wins last weekend; NT coach Tom Herrala is 181-52 (.781) in 10 seasons with the Trevians. … LA senior attack Quinn Callahan and sophomore attack Branden Tait each had a hat trick in the Ramblers’ 15-7 defeat of Naperville North’s Huskies in a state semifinal at Hinsdale Central May 31. Forsyth scored twice, and junior attack Nolan Chow delivered three assists. Urukalo made six saves. … NT received three goals from junior attack Dylan Bruno and two apiece from junior attack Henry Freedman and junior middie Brian Sitzer in the Trevians’ 10-4 defeat of Glenbard West’s Hilltoppers in the other state semifinal May 31. Freedman and Scherb each contributed a pair of assists, and sophomores Cooper Yaccino (1 save) and Brian Dolby (4) shared time in goal. … LA junior middie Conor Koch executed the most difficult pass in the state title game last weekend — while on his back. Koch made the desperate and innovative delivery near NT’s goal to keep a possession alive in the third quarter.