After playing against some of the top teams in the country on trips to Upstate New York and Maryland, Loyola head coach Rob Snyder said it’s not unusual for the players to lose focus upon returning home.
That shouldn’t be an issue Tuesday when the Ramblers (12-1) host defending state champion New Trier (11-2) in Wilmette. Both teams are undefeated against in-state opponents.
“To play competition as well as we do out east, we sometimes have letdowns when we get back,” Snyder said. “We have struggled coming out of the gate our last two games. I think we will be ready Tuesday.”
This game brings another challenge, according to Snyder, as Loyola and New Trier have combined to win the last 16 state titles, with 12 of those state finals pitting the two rivals against each other.
“I do feel we make it too big sometimes,” he said. “It’s an awesome game with a lot of history between us, but it also doesn’t mean anything in the long term. We, as coaches, try to get the players to approach it like any other game.”
Senior Andrew Forysth said losing to the Trevians in last year’s state final will serve as motivation Tuesday, but he agreed it’s important for the players to remain in control.
“There is a sense of getting them back, so that will be a factor,” he said. “But we can’t let our emotions dictate how we play. We have to go into the game at an even keel.”
Loyola enters this week scoring an average of 13.3 goals and allowing 5.4 per game.
A big part of the offense’s success is the faceoff combination of juniors Mick Burden (pictured above) and Alek Szczupak. The two have won 72.4 percent of faceoffs, with Szczupak at 73.1 percent and Burden at 71.6.
They’ve enabled the Ramblers to feature a balanced attack. Four players have 31 or more points, led by Forsyth’s 35 (24 goals, 11 assists). Juniors Connor Koch (34), Nolan Chow (33) and Najee Taylor (31) follow.
Junior goalie Dom Urukalo is the backbone of a rebuilt defense, saving 59 percent of shots on goal. Senior Quinn Cashion is first on the team in groundballs (35) and caused turnovers (21). Senior Luca Lazzaretto has 19 groundballs and 13 caused turnovers.
Photo credit: Michael Cutler