Undoubtedly, it will be a different feeling for the Ramblers when the open the playoffs today against Regina Dominican in the quarterfinals of the Resurrection Sectional.
For the first time since 2009, the top-seeded Ramblers (23-1) don’t enter the postseason as the defending state champions. After winning 10 consecutive state championships, Loyola took third place last year in the first season as an official IHSA sport.
“As long as I can remember, we’ve never been in this position before,” Loyola senior Brynn Holohan (pictured above) said. “But we’ve embraced that underdog mentality all year. We’ve been focused on what this team can do, not what we’ve done in the past or what we can do in the future.”
The Ramblers have several signature wins this season, notably an 18-13 victory over defending state champion Hinsdale Central on May 1. Their lone loss was an 8-7 defeat to Georgetown Visitation Prep, of Washington, D.C., on April 6.
Loyola’s strength is its balance, experience and depth. The Ramblers returned all five key defenders, including senior goalie Annie Enrietto, senior Anna Gordon, senior Lauryn Repp, senior Elizabeth Walker and junior Audrey Brett. Brett is tied for first on the team with 31 groundballs and is second with 12 interceptions. Repp has 30 groundballs and 10 interceptions.
“It all starts with our defense,” Loyola head coach John Dwyer said. “We have a veteran group back there, and that’s been key for us.”
Offensively, the Ramblers make themselves difficult to defend. Eight players have at least 21 goals and six have at least 17 assists. Sophomore Ellie Lazzaretto’s 100 points (79 goals, 21 assists) lead the team. Junior Annabelle Burke is second with 93 (65 goals, 28 goals).
“We have so many people across the field who can make big plays, whether it’s on defense in the midfield or on attack,” said Holohan, who has 24 goals and nine assists. “We work together really well.”
Undefeated against teams from Illinois and winners of 16 in a row, Loyola beat the Panthers 19-0 on May 9. The Ramblers are favored to advance to the Friday’s sectional final, where they most likely will play New Trier.
“This team has achieved a lot this season and wants to finish it off in style,” Loyola head coach John Dwyer said. “We are ready for any challenge that is front of us.”
Photo credit: Margo Grogan/Sports Depiction