It took Loyola sophomore Connor Koch some time to get going this season after an offseason stress fracture in his back kept him sidelined for the first part of the spring.
But he’s slowly returned to form.
A midfielder, Koch had his best offensive game Wednesday, scoring Loyola’s first two goals in a 17-7 win over Lake Forest in the semifinals of the state tournament. It was the most goals Koch has scored in a single game this season.
“The last few games I’ve been playing better, and I finally stuck a few shots,” he said.
The defending state champion and top-seeded Ramblers (17-7) play either New Trier or Neuqua Valley at 1:30 p.m. at Stevenson for the state title. Loyola has won three of the last five.
“If we play like we know we can, we will have a good opportunity to win,” Loyola head coach Rob Snyder said.
Although the Ramblers didn’t match fifth-seeded Lake Forest’s intensity from the outset, Snyder said he was proud of how his team found its way and led 3-1 after the first quarter.
“We started off slow, and they came out fired up,” he said. “Once we got some goals, we were able to settle in.”
Loyola led 3-1 after the first quarter and 10-1 at the half. The Scouts never came closer than nine goals in the final two quarters.
Senior Quinn Roddy, senior Billy Jardeleza, sophomore Timothy Hackett and Koch all scored two goals apiece. Hackett also had an assist. Sophomore Nolan Chow had one goal and two assists. In all, 13 players scored for the Ramblers.
“We won faceoffs and beat them up pretty good on the groundballs,” Snyder said. “They didn’t have any six-on-six goals, either.”
Koch, who played varsity as a freshman, said he’s thankful to finally be healthy and contributing on the field. On Saturday, he will try to win another state title with his brother, senior Kyle Koch, in their final high school game together.
“I will soak it in, but I will be mostly focused on winning the game,” Connor Koch said. “We no longer have to worry about looking ahead. All we have to do is win one more game.”