By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 6/11/17
The Loyola Academy (IL) girls’ lacrosse team won 28 games this year, but perhaps it was an early-season loss that served as the turning point.
The Ramblers, just a week after impressing against Eastern region powers at the prestigious St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Spring Fling, dropped a 20-17 contest to eventual Ohio state champion Upper Arlington April 8 in a Midwest showdown held at the University of Notre Dame.
The loss – especially allowing 20 goals – created a jolt to a team that had cracked the national spotlight in the Summit Lacrosse North America Rankings and several other polls. But it also motivated the Ramblers to re-focus their efforts.
“I really think we saw in DC how well we could play and losing to Upper Arlington was like a shock,” said senior midfielder Brennan Dwyer, the team’s top scorer and draw control specialist who heads to Northwestern. “Obviously, we don’t go into any game thinking we can lose and we took that as a turning point.
“We put it behind us and focused on what we could control. We focused on our strengths and working together – that was especially important with two seniors getting injured.”
Despite losing key starters Mary Dooley and Katie Enrietto to season-ending ACL injuries, the Ramblers won their final 19 games and capped the season with a 15-9 victory over New Trier last Friday in the state finals at Northwestern University. The championship was their ninth straight.
At halftime, the Ramblers led just 7-6 and New Trier (22-4) had scored twice late in the half to pull close. But Loyola (28-2) won the opening draw of the second half and scored within a minute to spark a 5-0 run and a 12-6 advantage.
“We knew they would be strong because we played them every year and sometimes twice,” said Dwyer, noting the Ramblers had defeated New Trier, X-X, earlier in the season. “I think we kept our composure. All through the season we have been saying we were a a second-half team and we knew we had to do put it into full gear.
“This year was really special, being my senior year. Many of us have been playing together since 8th grade or before; we knew each other’s strengths and what we do well. We also had so many younger players and we built bonds with them. I think getting to know each other and playing so well as a team was so cool. We all come together to bring us success.”
Dwywer who scored an amazing 139 goals, was named an Under Armour All-American and was joined on the All-State team by Dooley (attack, Marquette signee and Enrietto (midfield. Notre Dame) as well as Riley Dolan (defender) Colleen Huffman (attack, Yale), Madison Kane (midfield,Marquette), Delaney Oliveira (goalie, American), Brennan O’Malley (defender, Villanova), Caroline Witkowski (midfield, Michigan) and Libby Germano (attack, Honorable Mention). Other key seniors included Grace Clarke (Butler), Julia Neumeyer and Serena Walker.
Loyola, which has been the dominant girls’ lacrosse power from the Midwest for over a decade, had an ambitious schedule that included foes such as Georgetown Visitation and Robinson (VA) as well as host St. Stephen’s at the Spring Fling, western powers St. Ignatius (CA), Colorado Academy (CO) and Cherry Creek, and eventual Michigan state champions Cranbrook Kingswood and Rockford as well as defeding Minnesota champ Eden Prairie from outside of Illinois in the Midwest. The Ramblers’ only other loss (16-14) was to Top 10 power St. Stephen’s, a game they felt they should have won. Last week Loyola was No. 14 in the Summit Lacrosse National Rankings.
Dooley tore the ACL in her left knee on April 20 during a game in Colorado and Enrietto did the same the next day. But after that, the team got strong play from several younger players and even more output from the seniors.
“Losing Katie and Mary increased the minutes of Brennan and Madison,” said Loyola coach John Dwyer, Brennan’s father. “We had the luxury of four equal midfielders so we could always rest them. When those two went out, we played three sophomores. Those kids were a huge part of the reason we won 18 games after they got hurt. The girls were determined to play the rest of the season for the two that got hurt.”