Lake Forest High School's boys' lacrosse team began and closed this season with a no-quit mentality.
The Scouts' late rally fell short Saturday evening in a 6-4 loss to Loyola Academy in the State title game of the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association in Palatine.
“We didn’t ever quit,” said Matt Wagener, one of Lake Forest's co-captains. “Every one of our guys played hard until the end. That was important to us.”
Lake Forest coach Dan Maigler, whose Scouts (17-3) were in the title game for the first time since 1998, was proud of his team’s effort, especially after the seniors had graduation ceremonies earlier in the day.
“We just couldn’t get our fast break game going,” Maigler said. “I am proud of our kids. They battled back hard all game.”
Loyola (16-0) got off to a fast start.
Brandon Dowdle put in a rebound off a shot by Connor Person to put the Ramblers up 1-0, just 40 seconds into the game. Then, just 37 seconds later, Person scored off of a feed from Ryan Ford and it appeared that Loyola could be headed towards a rout.
But this is a Scout team that is used to comebacks. Lake Forest had rallied from a 5-0 deficit earlier this year to beat St. Viator and in the state semifinals the Scouts found themselves trailing Waubonsie Valley, only to rally for an 8-5 win.
Lake Forest received some stellar goaltending from Ethan Ulmer, who then turned away six Rambler shots, many from point-blank range.
“I knew I had to come up big and make some plays,” Ulmer said. “I figured that if I did, my teammates would gain some momentum from it.”
Ulmer’s words rang true. Sparked by his play, the Scouts answered with two goals of their own.
Sam Moran scored on a power play thanks to an assists from Andrew Clifford as the Scouts closed to 2-1 with 8 minutes, 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
Less than three minutes later, Lake Forest struck again. Joseph Kurshner received a pass from Ryan Tupper in front of the cage, and made a nifty reverse shot over his back shoulder to tie the game at 2-2.
Again, Loyola struck first to begin a quarter. Just 22 seconds into the second, Dan O’Malley scored for the Ramblers to stake them to a 3-2 lead at the half.
O’Malley scored again with 7:51 left in the third quarter to make it 4-2. Loyola appeared to be on the verge of pulling away when Tim O’Connor tallied with 2:48 left in the same quarter to put the Ramblers up 5-2.
But once again Lake Forest wouldn’t quit.
The Scouts got a goal back with just 12.1 seconds left in the third quarter as Clifford found the back of the cage from about 10 yards out on the left side.
Tupper put even more life into the Scouts with 7:30 to play. The senior took the ball out on top and drove to his left, firing the ball past Loyola keeper Kevin Steger from about five yards out as the Scouts cut the lead to 5-4.
However, Loyola answered when Connor Person blasted a high shot into the cage to give Loyola some breathing room with a 6-4 lead and 6:21 left to play.
“We made a switch on offense and I saw an opening and then capitalized on it,” said Person, who was playing with a dislocated knee.
Undaunted, Lake Forest still tried to get back in the game. The Scouts had a pair of scoring chances in the final three minutes.
Wagener had a great feed to Clifford, who then was turned away by a great save by Steger with 2:45 to play. Moran was also stopped on a point blank shot with less than a minute to play.
“This kind of effort and the mental toughness that comes with it is what we are really striving for,” Maigler said. “Sure you would like a championship, but we are teachers here. And I want our kids to learn about life and become young men. They did that all season for us.”
Loyola coach Rob Snyder, whose teams have lost in the state championship game for the last five years, was pleased with his team’s effort as well.
“It is very rewarding after the last couple of years,” Snyder said. “We have been here quite a bit, but it is nice to come away with the big trophy. Lake Forest played very well and never gave up."