The art of the faceoff is vital to master in lacrosse. It can make the difference in any game, especially as competition intensifies.
The faceoff played a pivotal role when Loyola met rival New Trier Friday night, May 26, in the Glenbrook South Sectional finale — just not in the way you’d think.
The Trevians, seeded second in the sectional, won six of eight faceoffs in the first half; however, the possessions didn’t lead to many scoring opportunities as the Ramblers led 6-1 at halftime.
And then Loyola flipped that in the second half.
“We put one of our poles, Nate Schwitzenberg, on the faceoff,” Loyola’s Easton Bello said. “It forced the ball backwards and when the ball came backwards, we were able to ride the ball back.
“The biggest thing was not letting them go forward because when they go forward, they can push toward the net. And when they go back, it’s hard for them to recover and get on offense.”
That, as well as the early lead, helped propel the sectional’s top seed, Loyola, to a 14-6 win and a sectional championship for the second straight season.
The Trevians Hans Huber (left) shakes off a Ramblers defender in the sectional championship.
“Getting that lead was big for our confidence because we’ve had games where we didn’t start out hot and it’s been a struggle to come back after that,” Bello said. “Coming out strong set the tone for the rest of the game. We were confident in our abilities, our teammates, our coaches.”
Matty Vallace got the Ramblers on the board in the second half on the team’s first possession and helped catapult a 5-0 run highlighted by five different goal scorers, Vallace, Bello, Sean Cronin, Will Steele and Jameson Kane.
By that time, the Ramblers lead had gotten too big for the Trevians to recover from, as they led 11-1 with just under five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
While the offense was widening the lead, the defense was keeping the Trevians off of the board, forcing turnovers and making the Trevians alter their shots.
The Trevians did get some of the goals back courtesy of goals from Jake Zenkewicz and Bobby Dold.
“We have 16 seniors, so the way they finished the game, really showed no quit,” New Trier coach Adam Dickson said. “This group, I told them before the season, that this is about them and what they want to achieve and the impact they want to leave. That was their way of showing it today. Yeah we got beat by the better team today, but they played a fantastic game.
New Trier’s Angus Collins (right) tries to find space against the Loyola defense.
“Loyola had a really good defensive gameplan and was good at mixing it up. I thought we needed to take some risks, push and stop reacting to what they were doing. We did more of that in the second half and the guys that scored in the second half were guys that stepped up and wanted that moment.”
Dickson was in his first season at the helm of the Trevians, following in the footsteps of 12-year head coach Tom Herrala. Herrala was placed on leave the entirety of the 2022 season following investigation into a hazing incident and did not return to the program.
Under Dickson, previously an assistant coach with New Trier lacrosse, the Trevians 2023 season was trying as the Trevs picked up more in-state losses than is typical. But they responded with an 8-3 playoff victory over Glenbrook South on May 24 to avenge a loss earlier in the season.
“I was so excited to take over because I know the character of the group is so special,” he said. “It really showed the way we fought through some adversity.
“We had some losses this year and there’s a lot of pressure on a New Trier team to be successful. I think it was difficult at times and they really rallied around each other, that was very special.”
Jackson Ochsenhirt had two goals for the Trevians, while Bello and Cronin tallied three each for Loyola.
Loyola’s victory puts the Ramblers in the to the sectional final against St. Viator, one of four teams to hand the Ramblers a loss this season.
Bello has an idea of what they need to do to get that one back.
“We’ve got to come out with energy, that’s the hardest thing,” he said. “Come out with energy, play our defense right. That was our struggle last time, struggling with space. As long as those two click, our offense will click and I think we’ll be good.”