After losing 22 seniors to graduation, the Evanston Township High School boys lacrosse team hoped the younger players on the roster would be able to step up and fill the void. Unfortunately for the Wildkits, they have been unable so far to access their full potential.
On April 30, though sophomore Jake Casati led the way with two goals, Charlie Cunningham added a goal and an assist, and Tommy Otis made nine saves in goal, the Kits lost to Central Suburban League Conference foe Glenbrook North, 10-5.
And on May 1, the Kits played against Fremd High School. Again, despite senior Zack Nauert leading the Kits with three goals and Cunningham chipping in with two goals and one assist, the Kits fell, 15-10, putting their overall record at 2-9.
“The Fremd game was tough. I give them a lot of credit. Their players have grown over the years and formed a good chemistry,” said Kits’ coach Adam Hughes. “As a coach, the first half was tough to watch. We made way too many mistakes and Fremd was able to capitalize.”
Regarding Nauert’s performance, Hughes said, “Zack put the goals on the board, but this is a team game. There were a lot of mistakes made, not just by Zack, but by the whole team. I look at Zack to do more than just score.” He added, “He is a senior leader, so I look to him to help motivate his teammates. The first half wasn’t Zack’s time, but he picked it up in the second half and his teammates responded. I wish we’d played that way from start to finish.”
The Kits took on Oak Park-River Forest on May 5 and fell to the Huskies 14-6. The Kits trailed 4-2 with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter and tied it at 4 early in the second quarter. But that was the closest the Kits were able to get. The Huskies outscored ETHS with a victory of 10-2.
“We managed to put together two good quarters [the Kits trailed 10-5 at the half] but then faltered somewhere along the way, which is frustrating,” said Hughes.
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Hughes says he feels his team has not played its best lacrosse yet, but knows what it will take to finish the season on a positive note.
“I don’t feel as though they have reached their potential and this has translated into inconsistent play. We did graduate 22 seniors, but I expected my newer players to step up. It’s frustrating to see kids not working hard and wasting their talents.”
Hughes added, “Our guys need to play all four quarters. We either start strong and finish weak, or start weak and finish strong. The guys need to give 100 percent effort for all four quarters. A former teammate from college gave me a saying that I shared with the team before our Deerfield game: ‘Effort takes no talent.’ [Since then] I’ve never seen the team play better.” The Kits won that game 9-1.
Some positives have emerged from the team’s growing pains this season. One of them is how well the team has bonded.
“We sank into a low place this season, but the bond that the players have with each other is incredible. Another positive is that a lot of young guys got some varsity experience,” Coach Hughes said.
Despite a sub-.500 record so far, Hughes says he hopes there is still time for the Kits to end the season on an upbeat and make some noise in the postseason.
“There are still several games left in the season. I always expect to win, and so do my players. I would like to send the seniors off on a positive note,” said Hughes. “I hope the team will peak by [the playoffs]. I do hope to shock some teams during the playoffs.”
Next up for the Kits is a matchup with Lake Zurich on May 12. After that, they face Wheaton-Warrenville South on May 19 in the regular season finale at Lazier Field. And later on this month, the team begins the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association (IHSLA) playoffs.