GIRLS LACROSSE: Loyola enters the state playoffs this week as the top seed and the odds-on favorite to capture its ninth consecutive state championship. The Ramblers (22-2) play either Lake Zurich or Palatine on Wednesday at Stevenson in the sectional semifinals. Already the best program in Illinois and likely in the Midwest, the Ramblers are making a name for themselves nationally. According to three lacrosse publications — US Lacrosse Magazine, Top Lax Recruits, MaxPreps — Loyola is ranked no worse than 22nd. MaxPreps has the Ramblers No. 6, while Top Lax Recruits has them 19th and US Lacrosse Magazine has them 22nd. “We have gained respect nationally that we deserve,” Loyola head coach John Dwyer said. “The people who do their homework know where we stand in the country. We take a lot of pride in our strength of schedule and who we have beaten over the years.” But starting this week, the Ramblers will turn their attention to beating the best teams in Illinois. Loyola is 10-0 against in-state opponents. New Trier is the No. 2 seed followed by Hinsdale Central at No. 3 and Glenbrook South at No. 4. “We follow those rankings, but it’s more important for us where we stand in the state every year,” Dwyer said.

BOYS TENNIS: Loyola head coach Tom Fitzgerald said the Ramblers have had to “re-tool” the lineup this season after losing all four state qualifiers from a year ago, including Alan Arocho, who advanced as a sophomore. But Loyola still made a run at the Catholic League championship Friday, taking second at the 12-team meet with 35 points. St. Ignatius finished first with 36. The Ramblers, who started only two seniors, won three of the five flights, beating the Wolfpack for all three league titles. Sophomore Ryan Reardon finished first at No. 3 singles, while the No. 1 doubles team of junior Andy Paden and sophomore Patrick Lawler and the No. 2 doubles of senior Cole Dettling and junior Thomas Sullivan also earned conference championships. “A number of sophomores have stepped up and made an impact,” Fitzgerald said. “We have a young team going forward into the [sectional tournament].” The Ramblers play at the Class 2A Niles North Sectional on Friday and Saturday. The top four places in both singles and doubles advance to the state meet May 25-27 at Hersey.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL: The Ramblers play Glenbrook South at home Thursday to close out the regular season in what could be a preview of next week’s regional final at Loyola. The Ramblers, the No. 6 seed at the New Trier Sectional, open the playoffs May 23 against either No. 11 Fenton or No. 22 Chicago Math and Science Charter. Meanwhile, No. 3 Glenbrook South plays in the other regional semifinal. Loyola (20-14) ended last week by finishing 4-1 to take fifth place at Evanston’s invitational. Sophomore outside hitter Jack Howard led Loyola with 47 kills, including eight in a 25-12, 25-18 win over Marian Catholic in the title game of the Silver bracket. Sophomore outside hitter Henry Clemons contributed four kills and four aces. Senior outside hitter Matt Byrne had seven digs and three aces. Freshman John Hitt, the primary setter at the tournament, had 16 assists against Marian Catholic and 89 for the five matches.

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola