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The game between Loyola Academy and St. Viator was the game I was looking forward to all spring. I’ve heard from St. Viator fans for a few years now - voicing concerns that they were disrespected by not being included in the conversation with Loyola and New Trier (Ill.) about top high school lacrosse teams in Illinois. So I looked at this game as the pretender or contender game for St. Viator.
Which one are they?
I'm putting them in the contender category.
On a frigid and windy night, St. Viator played the Ramblers tough. Even though they lost 10-6, they held their own.
A few things that stood out to me about St. Viator - they play confident, tough and fast. They were not intimidated. Faceoff man Zo Lombardo played great. He went up against one of the best faceoff men in the Midwest in Mick Burden. That was the type of performance that can get college coaches looking.
I knew all about Elijah Black going into the game, and he certainly didn't disappoint.
The Freeman twins (Connor and Jacob), also pretty well known in Illinois, truly stood out. They move very well with the ball and off the ball, showing off some nice stick fakes. Their body control is impressive, and the fact they are Juniors should make teams nervous that they will be facing them another year.
When I watch a game, I try not to pick out the players I’m “supposed” to watch. Instead, I want their play to stand out to me. So, as I was watching St. Viator play, one kid kept standing out.
Mikey Pastore played hard, full speed ahead, and was always working. The kid has grit. Every team needs that player, and every coach wants that player. He was fun to watch. Don’t ever stop playing that hard.
St. Viator was down 6-4 at halftime. I expected Loyola to come out strong after figuring out the zone defense St. Viator used against them.
I was shocked that there was a goalie switch. In came Joey Latrofa. I was right. Loyola adjusted and was ready to put it on, but they were rebuffed time-after-time by Latrofa. In one sequence, he had three huge saves to keep St. Viator in the game. Without those saves, the game could've been a more lopsided final score than 10-6.
Loyola is one of the best teams in the Midwest. I've seen them play many times. I know most of the players. I know what they bring to the table, So, for things to shock me while watching them doesn't always happen. I know Coach Rob Snyder likes a ball control offense. Some people may think it's boring, but I dare you to find a high school team that can do it as well as them. The ball isn't in their sticks for more than three seconds. It is precise, crisp, passing and flawless movement. True fans of the sport love that type of movement.
In this day of huge, lopsided scores, I like to joke that the only way to keep Loyola under 15 goals is to let coach Snyder’s offense run perfectly. The other thing about Loyola is all the injuries they are dealing with. But the offense doesn't miss a beat. It is the next man up a mentality. They don't dwell on who can't play. They go with who can. There are not many teams anywhere that can do that.
Junior Kaden Keller was my LaxRecords Player of the Game, with three goals and four assists (although his father says five). Either way, it was a great game. The ride-and-defense caused four failure to advance turnovers.
The other player who caught my eye was senior D-middie, Jack Burke. He hasn't played lacrosse in three years but came back to play his senior year. He will be playing for the US Naval Academy next spring. The first time I saw him play, my thought was that this kid is a human, heat-seeking missile. He is all-out, all the time, and plays smothering defense. If Loyola repeats as Illinois state champions, he will be one of the reasons.
All-in-all, despite a chilly night, this game was well worth my trip, and I look forward to seeing these two teams again this year.
If you want to read more of my recaps or thoughts on Midwest high school lacrosse you can follow me on twitter at @mfwchi, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, watch or listen to the Around the Crease podcast on YouTube or your favorite podcast media player.
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