The Evanston Township High School boys lacrosse team is set to avenge its last-season loss to Oak Park in the opening round of the Illinois High School Association’s state tournament with a solid 2014 campaign.
The Wildkits certainly got off on the right foot toward a solid season with their season-opening March 17 win of 14-1 over Maine South, a game played at Lazier Field in Evanston. In that game, midfielder/attacker Chris David took the opening faceoff and put it past the Hawks’ goalie to give the Kits the lead, which they would not relinquish on their cruise to victory.
On March 20, the Kits made that two victories in a row, beating Deerfield by a score of 9-2 on a chilly evening at Lazier Field. Attacker Jake Casati scored the first of his three goals in that game with 4 minutes 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter, giving the Kits a 2-0 lead. After scoring two goals in the second quarter, the Kits made it 5-0 early in the third, when attacker Thomas Julcher found the net with 9 minutes 49 seconds remaining.
With 6 minutes and 7 seconds remaining in the quarter, Deerfield responded with a goal to make the score 5-1. The Kits bounced back about a minute later, however, when midfielder Sam Knepper scored, extending the lead to 6-1, which would be the score heading to the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, after attackers Aidan Crowe and Sam Mayne scored goals, Casati scored his third goal of the game to give the Kits a 9-1 lead with just over five minutes remaining. From there, Deerfield added a late goal to make the final score 9-2.
"We played a pretty solid game. Offensively and defensively, I thought we did very well," said Head Coach Adam Hughes. "Two issues, obviously, are mental errors, and in the second half, it was shooting. We just could not find the back of the net."
With the victory, the Kits improved to 2-0 on the season and have scored 23 goals – while allowing their opponents to score just three.
"On defense, I was very impressed," said Hughes. "Our mission [against Deerfield] was to hold them to one goal per quarter, and obviously, we shut them out in the first half, which is phenomenal. So I was pleased with the defense, and Marcello Porter-Dunning was a huge anchor back there playing goalie."
Indeed, Porter-Dunning recorded seven saves while allowing two goals against Deerfield. Through two games, he has allowed only three goals while making 11 saves. In addition to Casati, Crowe, Julcher, Mayne and Knepper, midfielder Charlie Cunningham and defenseman Drake Smith also tallied goals against Deerfield.
With the season just under way, the Kits have hopes of winning a lot of games, but Coach Hughes knows that the wins will only come if his team stays focused on doing the little things and playing smart throughout the year.
"We are obviously high on wins. But I think as a team, it is about culture and changing the small little details," he said.. "Last year, we did not really focus on those, and this year we are trying to do the small things. For us, it is who are we playing today, what can we do to get better, and to do the small things between the lines."
The coach added, "The key to success for us is just being smart. In years past, we have kind of played on a whim and now we are taking every precaution. You know, if one [option] does not work, we have [options] two, three, four and five ready to go. [But] it is just game preparation and doing those small details."
When asked which players he is counting on to carry the load this season, Hughes said, "Definitely our goalie, Marcello on the defensive side of the ball. On top of that, everyone on defense in general. … Offensively, we have a couple senior leaders out there in Aidan Crowe, Jake Casati, and Charlie Cunningham. Those are some big anchors for us."
The Kits will need those players to step up in order to get through their schedule, which Hughes says will be a tough one. "Every game you look forward to. I think this schedule is one of our beefier ones, but I am excited about it. I know our guys are ready and every game, like I said, we are always excited for."
Next up, the Kits travel to Highland Park tonight to take on the Giants, followed by a matchup with Glenbrook North on April 1. Coach Hughes said, "[Highland Park is] another good team, [This is a] conference game for us [and] you always look forward to those. I had a bunch of their guys over the summer coaching them." He added, "I am just excited for our guys to continue this great play that we have been having the past two games here. But I am [also] just looking forward to string up four straight quarters of solid lacrosse."
If the Kits can consistently string up four quarters of solid lacrosse throughout the season, there is no telling where this team will end up come IHSLA playoff time in May.