Over the past three seasons, the Evanston Township High School boys lacrosse team has seen a steady increase in total victories. In 2012, the Wildkits won a total of three games, and then won nine games in 2013, and so far this season, they have won 13 games with hopes of adding a few more to that total in the postseason.
Head coach Adam Hughes attributes the increase in victories to the lower level programs developing quality players. “The school is on board and the Evanston youth program is developing phenomenal players,” the coach explained. “The freshman coaches, the JV coaches, everyone does a great job. So by the time they get to Varsity, I am just really doing X’s and O’s and not so much skill work.”
The Kits earned their 12th victory beating Cary-Grove 6-2 on May 10. In that game, senior Jake Casati scored a season-high four goals on only nine shots. Junior Sam Mayne, senior Aidan Crowe, and senior Charlie Cunningham also tallied goals while junior Thomas Julcher added two assists. In addition, sophomores Chris David, Nick Lydon, and Quinn McConkey won a combined 10 face-offs on 12 attempts.
Next, the Kits beat Barrington 13-5 on May 13 at Lazier Field in Evanston. In that game, after trailing 2-0 early, the Kits went on a 10-1 run to end the first half leading10-3, which was more than enough, as the Kits cruised to victory. Crowe led the Kits’ scoring attack with four goals and Casati scored three. Cunningham, David, senior Jeff Enochs, junior Tommy Haughey, junior Sam Knepper, and junior Henry Kohn also added goals for the Kits improving to 13-3 overall and that win marked their fifth in a row.
Regarding Crowe’s performance in that game, coach Hughes said, “He had a great game. It was just one of those games where the goal was as big as a soccer net and he was just able to find it.”
On May 16, the Kits took on Fenwick and lost 9-8 on Senior Night at Lazier Field. In that game, after once again trailing 2-0, the Kits got on the board with 5 minutes 17 seconds left in the first quarter when Casati scored. Then Fenwick scored the next four goals to take a 6-1 lead with 2 minutes and 8 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
But the Kits got back to within 6-3 after senior Sam O’Donnell scored late in the second and Cunningham scored with 7 minutes and 58 seconds remaining in the third quarter. But Fenwick scored again, giving the visitors a 7-3 lead. The Kits then answered when O’Donnell scored again with 5 minutes and 6 seconds left in the third, making it 7-4. Once again, Fenwick scored two more goals to close the third quarter, making it a 9-4 contest heading to the fourth.
In the fourth, the Kits responded in a big way, scoring the first four goals of the quarter to get to within 9-8 with 1 minute 58 seconds remaining after Casati scored his second goal. From there, the Kits had chances to tie the game but were unable to convert on three shots on goal in the final minute as the comeback attempt came up just short, allowing Fenwick to escape with the victory. In the fourth quarter, the Kits’ scoring consisted of two goals from Crowe, and one apiece from O’Donnell and Casati.
“Senior night is always a tough thing because the guys are not really focused because they are with their families, and the girls come to the game,” said Coach Hughes regarding his team’s performance against Fenwick. “It is a bit of a distraction but it is still no excuse. We just came out flat, [and] we did not play our game. Unfortunately we let them have three quarters, and we played very well in the fourth but you cannot beat a team in just one quarter.”
Regarding the team’s ability to bounce back in the second half and have a chance to win in the final minutes, the coach said, “[Fenwick] had a game plan of [playing] a zone defense and we broke down the zone. Our biggest thing was taking care of the possessions and just smart play, so staying out of the box and not turning the ball over. That was a big problem for us in the first half.” He added, “But I just told them [at halftime] to step back, take a deep breath, and we will be fine. They definitely executed in that last quarter and that is what we were looking for.”
With the loss to Fenwick, the Kits finished the regular season with an overall record of 13-4, which pleased Coach Hughes. “I am definitely pleased. I know we want to do better and as a coach you always want to improve. When you look back and see those four losses, I still think we could improve upon those,” he said. “But I am happy. We always want to put the program in the right direction and I think we are there. The school is on board, the coaching staff is there, the kids are buying in, and the youth program is phenomenal.” The Coach added, “All things are moving and I am just really proud of where the guys are, especially these seniors who leave a lasting impression on the underclassmen.”
On May 20, the Kits took on St. Ignatius in the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association State Tournament. The Kits edged out Ignatius, 5-4, in the first playoff game, with junior goalie Marcello Porter-Dunning making 11 saves. Sam O’Donnell was credited with the game-winning goal, after his shot was barely stopped by the Wolfpack goalie and then accidentally tipped in by a Wolfpack defender. Goals were also scored by Casati, Cunningham, Mayne, and Jack Lydon.
The Wildkits next playoff game is May 22, against No. 6 seed Stevenson. The Kits beat Stevenson, 6-4, on May 8. If they beat Stevenson, they will advance to the quarterfinals on May 27.