Senior captain and three-year varsity lacrosse player Mick Burden is looking forward to the opportunity to defend the program’s state title when Loyola opens the postseason Monday. The Ramblers, who are the No. 1 seed at their own sectional, made history last year when they beat New Trier 7-2 at Hinsdale Central to capture the first IHSA state championship in lacrosse. A native of Kenilworth and product of Joseph Sears, Burden learned the game from his cousins, Loyola alums Ryan Chestnut (Class of 2014) and Will Chestnut (Class of 2016). Burden was part of the team’s runner-up finish in 2017. The Ramblers won the state title his freshman year.

MAROON & GOLD: How soon after winning the state championship last year did you and rest of the soon-to-be seniors turn your attention to this season? 

MICK BURDEN: We had finals right after state and most guys took the week off, but we were back at the hill [Loyola’s Munz Campus in Glenview] in late June running senior practices, working hard and trying to get better. It was awesome to win last year, especially for the [graduating] seniors, but it made the guys coming back hungrier to do it again. [Loyola head coach Rob Snyder] told us around playoff time last year to focus on playing for each and not worry about anything else. That’s what we are doing this year. 

M&G: Has it felt any differently being the defending state champion? 

MB: No, not really. We’ve always been a highly regarded team, and everybody we play wants to give us their best look. That’s why we put the focus on ourselves and what we can control.

M&G: Every year, Loyola travels out East to play some of the best programs in the country. This year was no different. In fact, Snyder told me the three teams you played on Long Island, New York — Chaminade, St. Anthony’s, Garden City — were the best he’s ever scheduled. You lost all three games by an aggregate score of 45-13, but the team returned stronger than before it left. Explain the balance between wanting to win and wanting to improve. 

MB: You always want to win, obviously. But going out there is more than a result. It’s about growing as a team and learning how to play better. It’s also about bonding with each other. If we win, that’s great. But it’s more about what we take away from playing these great teams. In a way, I’m glad we lost in New York. I think it made us a way better team. 

M&G: What is something you learned out there? 

MB: Every single guy on the field went as hard as he possibly could. Not only are they all highly skilled, they all fight hard every second of the game. I’ve never seen anything like it. When we got home, our first practice was our best of the season. Those teams showed us our effort was not close to where it needed to be. It was an eye-opening experience for us.

M&G: Your role has evolved this season. In addition your responsibilities as a faceoff specialist, you are taking shifts at middie. In Tuesday’s 18-6 win over St. Rita, you won all 10 faceoffs and also had two assists. Are you enjoying the expanded role? 

MB: I definitely like having the flexibility to do both. All I want to do is help the team in any way I can. 

M&G: When and why did you start taking faceoffs? 

MB: I was actually thinking about this the other day, and I honestly have no idea how I got into it. I started playing in second grade and took faceoffs, and I’ve done it ever since. I love it. It’s different than other positions, and I’m always challenged by it. I’m constantly trying to improve, both mentally and physically.  

M&G: You will play lacrosse at University of Richmond, a Division I program and member of the Southern Conference. How did arrive at that decision? 

MB: The second I got to the campus, I fell in love with it. It seemed like a great place. I hit it off the [head coach Dan Chemotti], and I liked that it’s an up-and-coming program. I want to be someone who helps make them successful and establishes them for years to come. It’s strong academically with a good business school, which is what I want to study. Honestly, it was an easy decision.