After falling to Wheaton-Warrenville South, 8-5, in the regular season finale on May 18, the Evanston Township High School boys lacrosse team looked to bounce back against Oak Park-River Forest on May 21 in the first round of the IHSLA Class A State playoffs.
But the No.16-seeded Wildkits were unable to do so, bowing out to the No. 17-seeded Huskies, 6-5, in a hard-fought matchup at Lazier Field in Evanston. The Kits were led by junior midfielder Charlie Cunningham, who scored two goals. In addition, junior attacker Jake Casati and junior midfielder Sam O’Donnell each tallied a goal and an assist for the Kits, while senior midfielder Josh Easington added a goal to complete the scoring for the Kits.
"What a rough game. My hat goes off to the OPRF players and staff," said Head Coach Adam Hughes. "You never want to lose, but a tough battle like that eases some of the pain. We needed to close that game out. We blew a lead and this [was] an issue all season."
The Kits finished the season with an overall record of 9-8 and even though they did not get as far as they would have liked in the post season, Hughes said he is pleased with the overall season. "We had a long journey [that] made our bond stronger," said Hughes. "We had a young team who learned a lot on and off the field and some great senior leaders to mentor them."
Hughes said his group of 13 graduating seniors have inspired his returning players to be excited about next year. "I have been at ETHS four seasons and I waited for a group of seniors who were passionate about the team and their underclassmen," said the coach. "After that last game, we received a stirring speech from an upperclassman that [created] a united front with our underclassmen preparing for next season. We have a lot of young talent that stepped up and now they have the confidence."
Looking ahead to next season, Hughes feels that dedication will be a major key to success. "We took some steps to make this program a serious contender [this season]. Our guys need to commit to the team and themselves. Success will come."
In order for that to happen, the coach will rely on a number of returning players to play big roles next spring. "My whole attack is coming back and they will be seasoned, [including] junior Adian Crowe, sophomore Thomas Julcher, sophomore Sam Mayne, freshman Chris David and Casati," said Hughes. "At middle, our leading point scorer, Cunningham, along with O’Donnell, who controlled the X [will be returning]. On defense, sophomore Marcello Porter-Dunning is returning in the pipes alongside junior Drake Smith and sophomore long-stick midfielder Jack Lydon."
On paper, the Kits look like a team on the rise, finishing above .500 after winning only three games in the 2012 campaign [which pleases Hughes], but the Coach knows what it will take for his team to be even better next season. "We were pleased finishing above .500 [but] it is not good enough for me nor my players, [though] it was a step in the right direction. However, our team is more unified, focused and determined [and] hard work in the offseason will get us there next season."
If all goes according to plan, look for the Kits to have a solid 2014 campaign and be in position to make a long post-season run come next May.