Nike/US Lacrosse Midwest Region Report
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Top PerformersZach Currier, Culver Academy (Ind.)
Currier garnered Most Valuable Player honors at the North American Lacrosse Invitational with a spectacular tournament that included nine goals and five assists. As a result, he helped the second-seeded Eagles capture the tournament title with a victory over top-ranked Hill Academy (Conn.).
Austin Hyatt, Lincoln-Way (Ill.)
The Griffins didn't take on a particularly difficult schedule, but Hyatt's numbers are notable none the less. In addition to placing second in the state with 111 points, he also took in a breathtaking 146 ground balls.
Joel Iverson, Eastview (Minn.)
Joel Iverson was one of Minnesota's best faceoff weapons in 2013, securing nearly two-thirds of his faceoff attempts for the Lightning. The midfielder also came up with 75 ground balls. Iverson was a key part of a successful campaign for the Eagles, in which they won 10 games and their only losses came by a combined five goals.
Games to Watch
Illinois Division semifinal game — May 30
Top-ranked New Trier (Ill.) has yet to lose in-state, but Saint Viator (Ill.) came close on April 9, coming within four goals of the Trevians. The Lions should get another shot this week, assuming they can hold off Benet Academy (Ill.), which they defeated by nine goals a couple of weeks ago. Of course New Trier must take care of business against Lake Forest (Ill.), which it dispatched of by 13 goals a couple of weeks ago.
Ohio Division semifinal game — June 5
It's a thorny path, but it does seem that Mason (Ohio) and Upper Arlington (Ohio) may well meet again in the Buckeye State semifinals. The Comets emerged on top in a defensive thriller, 6-5, earlier this season, but picking up another win at Upper Arlington will be a challenge. In order for this matchup to occur, Mason needs to repeat its success against Sycamore (Ohio), which it crushed on the road a little more than a week ago, while Upper Arlington needs to get through Thomas Worthington (Ohio) first then a possible game against Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio), two teams it ran through earlier this season.
1. Culver Academy (Ind.), 18-2
It would be hard to find a team that closed on a more convincing note than the Eagles. In their last three games, they took on Loyola Academy (Ill.), Upper Arlington (Ohio) and Hill Academy (Canada), three teams with a combined record of 50-9, and won by a combined score of 54-21.
2. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 16-2
The Golden Bears came back from a dispiriting loss to Culver Academy (Ind.) with an impressive road win at Brother Rice (Mich.). Somehow, a defense that surrendered 17 to the Eagles came back to allow just six goals to the Warriors.
3. Mason (Ohio), 15-2
After surrendering 31 goals in their only two losses of the season, the Comets' defense has come back strong, surrendering just 19 goals during the course of a five-game winning streak. That included a 13-5 victory at Sycamore, their next opponent in the state tournament.
4. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 16-3
The Ramblers got plenty of postseason preparation with a trying stretch that included three one-goal victories — Glenbrook North (Ill.), Western Reserve Academy (Ohio) and Hill Academy — followed by a blowout loss to Culver Academy. They now have a chance to rest up against a few lower Illinois teams before entering the heart of the postseason.
5. New Trier (Ill.), 16-3
The Trevians suffered a bit of a head scratcher at the North American Lacrosse Invitational, falling 19-4 to Timon St. Jude (N.Y.). But they still have a thorough record of dominance in-state, which was extended with an 11-0 win over Oak Park-River Forest (Ill.) on Thursday.
6. Eden Prairie (Minn.), 13-0
The Eagles handled a difficult end-of-season stretch with aplomb, with four of their last six coming on the road and four of their last six coming against teams with winning records. No matter, the Eagles won them all. After defeating Eagan (Minn.), Edina (Minn.) and Champlin Park (Minn.), an 8-6 victory over Eastview (Minn.) simply served as icing on the cake.
7. Glenbrook North (Ill.), 17-3
Losses to Loyola Academy and Saint Viator (Ill.) brought a cloud of doubt on a spectacular season for the Spartans. They answered those doubts with a four-game winning streak in which they've outscored their opponents 56-12. They capped it off with an impressive 15-6 victory over a very good Lyons Township (Ill.) squad.
8. Cathedral (Ind.), 19-1
The Irish are champions once again. They defeated the Carmel Greyhounds for the Indiana state championship. Their second victory over the Greyhounds didn't come quite as easy as their first, a five-goal victory at Carmel, but at the end of the day, Cathedral emerged victorious.
9. Brother Rice (Mich.), 14-5
The Warriors are saddled with some rough losses, including to Hill Academy and Upper Arlington, but they boast some impressive wins as well, including victories over New Trier, Dublin Jerome (Ohio) and Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio). It will be interesting to see if any Michigan team can compete with such a battle-tested squad.
10. Saint Viator (Ill.), 14-3
The Lions have won 12 of their last 13, including victories over Glenbrook North (Ill.), Hinsdale Central (Ill.) and Benet Academy (Ill.). Meanwhile, their only three losses, two of which came early in the spring, were by a combined seven goals, including a respectable 10-6 result against New Trier (Ill.).
News & Notes
A Perfect Postseason Too?
Eden Prairie pulled off a perfect regular season by defeating last year's state champion, but the Eagles know the postseason is a marathon, not a sprint.
"You can't get caught up in looking too far ahead and you can't get caught off guard and lay an egg," Eden Prairie coach Ryan Ward said. "I think the biggest threat is just being mentally prepared every game, one game at a time."
Ward noted that the Eagles have squared off against pretty much everyone, except for Blaine (Minn.), which has an impressive 12-1 record, and Bloom Jefferson (Minn.) who Ward noted has been playing pretty well lately, with eight wins in its last nine games.
"There's no team out there that's unknown or that we're worried about," Ward said. "It's the usual suspects. [Some of the] best teams are Blake, Eagan, Blaine, Eastview. I think Blake is going to come on pretty strong. I think those are the top teams. Some of those teams will knock each other off too, which is also nice."
Eden Prairie enters the postseason with plenty of confidence following its 8-6 victory over Eastview.
"It was more of a plus for our team's psyche than anything else," Ward said. "The first thing this year, we beat Benilde who has had our number in the past and the last game of the year beating Eastview, we've basically seen everyone and beat them and everyone knows we've done it before so we can do it again."
And though Ward was less proud of his team's actual play against the Lightning initially, he since has seen some positives in the way they finished their regular season.
"I think if we had executed some of our shots on net, we would have probably won by eight goals. They're a very good team. They've won championships before. They know what it takes," Ward said. "I watched the game film and it wasn't as bad as I initially thought. We did some things pretty nicely. We just made a few uncharacteristic turnovers and that was what got me upset after the game."
The Underrated Ones
When one thinks of Eden Prairie, they think of Brooks Armitage, Jake Woodring and Charlie Venable — and not without good reason.
But a perfect regular season requires far more than one, two or even three good players. The Eagles have benefitted from the strong play of goaltender Max Fahey, who compiled 14 saves apiece against Minnetonka (Minn.) and Eastview, picking up a shutout against the Skippers. He has an impressive 4.33 goals against average and a .674 save percentage this season.
"He has really exceeded our expectations," Ward said. "He's a big-game player. It's a tough position, you have to want that pressure, and he wants it."
As a result, Fahey earned his starting spot, even with two senior keepers on the squad in Blake DeJong and Anthony Perkins.
"He's been awesome," Ward said. "He's been so hungry to get that starting job. He's stepped in and looked like he's been a starter for the last couple of years. I never have to worry about him because he's like my second son. He just does his job and plays at a high level. He's made some really big saves where teams would have had a lot more goals if we had someone else in net."
Fahey's not the only key player that Ward brought up, however. Dillon Rudrud and Ryan Connelly also earned their coach's praise.
Rudrud is the Eagles' third attackman and has a good stick and a high lacrosse IQ. Connelly is solid, big and smart. He scored four goals earlier this season in a 14-3 victory over Blake. Ward thinks he could be a regular two-to-three goals a game type guy if he can just "shoot through the net."
"That's one guy who doesn't get much credit, but I think if we can just get him hitting the cage and doing a few things differently, he could be a huge, huge weapon for us down the stretch," Ward said.Note: The Nike/US Lacrosse Regional rankings will not necessarily reflect the same order as the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll, which is voted on by US Lacrosse area representatives and Lacrosse Magazine contributors, who compile the regional rankings.