Nike/US Lacrosse Midwest Region Report
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Top PerformersAnnie Hopkins, Mother McAuley (Ill.)
Hopkins has put up freakishly good numbers all season long, including a six-goal performance against Nazareth (Ill.), a five-goal performance against Fenwick (Ill.) and a six-goal performance against Benet (Ill.). Hopkins leads the state with 78 goals and is not far behind the better known Kelsey Murray who ranks second in points with 101.
Dana Almquist, Stillwater (Minn.)
The Ponies might have one of the least intimidating names in the state, but they have perhaps the most intimidating scorer in Minnesota in Almquist. The attacker leads the state by a large margin with 71 goals, but most impressive perhaps was her huge 10-goal performance in Stillwater's stunning 21-20 victory over Minnetonka (Minn.). Almquist has turned the Ponies into a contender.
Halley Hallenbeck, Park Tudor (Ind.)
How did the Panthers go from 5-10 to 12-1 in a single year? A lot of the credit goes to Hallenbeck, who has made 64 of her 85 shots for an efficient 75.3 percent. She also has 18 assists, 31 draw controls and 37 ground balls. She has consistently excelled against top foes, posting four goals apiece against in-state rivals Bishop Chatard (Ind.), Carmel (Ind.) and Brebeuf Jesuit (Ind.).
Games to Watch
Stillwater (Minn.) at Eden Prairie (Minn.) – May 21
The Ponies silenced a lot of doubters with a gritty performance against a powerhouse in the Blake School (Minn.). They still came up short though, and after winning their fifth-straight conference title, they could earn a lot more respect with a strong performance against Eden Prairie, easily one of Minnesota's best teams.
Hinsdale Central (Ill.) vs. Lake Forest (Ill.) – May 22
For the most part, the super sectionals in the state of Illinois are expected to be a rather dull affair with Loyola (Ill.), New Trier (Ill.) and Montini Catholic (Ill.) all standing out as heavy favorites. Hinsdale Central and Lake Forest, on the other hand, already put on a classic earlier this season, with the Red Devils emerging on top in double overtime. Double overtime was also needed to settle their 2012 meeting, so attendees may be well advised to avoid making any plans immediately following the game.
1. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 19-3
The Ramblers undoubtedly have the rest of the state playing catch up, as no Illinois team has come within four goals of them thus far. An easy 14-6 win over Sycamore (Ohio) to round out the regular season affirmed Loyola's power within the region.
2. Mason (Ohio), 16-0
With their hardest games behind them, the Comets completed their perfect regular season without too much trouble, winning five of their last six by double digits. Of course, they haven't played a true power in at least a month, dating back to their April 18 win over Sycamore.
3. Medina (Ohio), 12-0-2
The Battling Bees began May with an excruciating three-game stretch in which they tied New Albany (Ohio) and edged Okemos (Mich.) and East Grand Rapids (Mich.), each by a single goal. Ever since, they've played just three games. Will that give them much-needed rest or will it cool the momentum they generated earlier in the month?
4. East Grand Rapids (Mich.), 17-2
We knew the Pioneers would be tested in ways that they never were during their perfect 2012 campaign. To their credit, they've handled every test admirably, most recently dispatching of Rockford (Mich.), Caledonia (Mich.) and Hartland (Mich.) – three of the best teams in the Great Lake State.
5. New Trier (Ill.), 14-3-1
The Trevians could not have entered the postseason with a fuller head of steam. They won their last eight, including dominant showings against Hinsdale Central (Ill.) and Glenbrook North (lll.) and a 12-9 victory over Sycamore.
6. Montini Catholic (Ill.), 12-2
The Broncos' meeting with the Ramblers didn't go quite as hoped – they lost 15-8 – but they came back with a convincing 14-4 victory over a Lake Forest (Ill.) team that was expected to contend for a state title. They have a clear hold on No. 3 in the state of Illinois.
7. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 12-2
Looking back, the Golden Bears have nothing to be ashamed of. Their only two losses were to very good teams in Milton (Ga.) and Medina (Ohio) and consecutive wins over New Albany (Ohio) and Sycamore keep them in the regional top ten.
8. Culver Academy (Ind.), 14-0
The Eagles cruised through an undefeated campaign with only a pair of hotly contested games all season – Collegiate (Ky.) came within a goal of Culver Academy and Barrington (Ill.) came within four goals. Unlike other top teams in the area, however, the Eagles failed to play other members of the regional elite.
9. Hinsdale Central (Ill.), 12-3
Paced by Kate Christian, one of the state's most underrated talents with 52 goals this season, the Red Devils plowed through their first postseason opponent, crushing Benet (Ill.) 17-2 to move on to the sectional finals. They will be a force in the postseason.
10. Blake School (Minn.), 9-2
It has been a tossup in the state of Minnesota this year. Coming off impressive wins over Lakeville North (Minn.) and Stillwater (Minn.), the Bears win this round, but their May 23 matchup with Eden Prairie (Minn.) will go far in determining which team is really the best in the state.
News and Notes
On Monday, the Stevenson Sectional played out exactly the way Julie Levy wanted it to.
Sure, the Lake Forest (Ill.) coach was hoping her team would win — and the Scouts did, defeating St. Charles 15-9. But she was also rooting for the Red Devils, the same Hinsdale Central (Ill.) team that defeated her squad in extra time earlier this season. She was hoping they would beat Fremd (Ill.) — and they did, 22-3. Even if Fremd might have been an easier matchup for her team, Levy wanted revenge, and thus she wanted Hinsdale Central.
"I want that game back," Levy said. "I am thirsting for Hinsdale Central again on Wednesday night."
Now, she'll have another shot at the Red Devils.
The Scouts' loss to the Red Devils on April 25 was in devastating form. They led by two with a little more than a minute and a half remaining in double overtime before Hinsdale Central came back to tie it and eventually win it in sudden death.
"I felt clearly we were the stronger team," Levy said. "Just young mistakes and just not being in that situation cost us."
Perhaps, worst of all, Levy looks back and sees her own mistakes playing a role in that loss. She said that she wonders if perhaps she should have used her timeouts differently. So there's a personal nature to her desire for a rematch as well.
"I replayed that in my head a hundred times," Levy said. "I think so did everyone else."
As for her girls, she said that maybe they weren't ready for crunch time yet. With 1:45 remaining in the double overtime period, the Scouts couldn't execute a stall situation and turned the ball over, according to Levy. That's where she hopes that her team's increased experience will play in now.
"Being in that situation where it's our first really close, competitive game of the season, and not being in that situation of urgency," Levy said. "We're up by two. There's a minute and 35 seconds left in the game, and what do we do? It was an unfortunate situation and hopefully we won't make that mistake again."
Earlier this season, Lake Forest suffered brutal losses to top foes. There was a 20-4 loss to Loyola Academy (Ill.) and a 14-4 loss to Montini Catholic (Ill.). Both Emily Cavalaris and Emily George, key members of the Scouts' attack, were out for their loss to the Broncos.
"They were very disappointing losses," Levy said. "I'd love to meet Montini again and I want to meet Loyola again because that certainly wasn't our best showing. We just have to move forward. We have a great team this year and I still think it's one of the best teams in the state."
Undefeated and Unsatisfied
Despite an undefeated regular season, Mason (Ohio) somehow didn't manage to snare the state's No. 1 seed, nor its second or third — instead they were seeded fourth.
According to Comets coach Paul Limpert, that was due to a change from a vote-driven to a data-driven system for ranking teams. And somehow, Mason, with wins over Sycamore (Ohio) and New Albany (Ohio), ended up behind both teams when it came to seeding for the postseason.
"It's not a great system, but it's better than the system we had before, which was coaches voting and letting all kinds of personalities get in the way," Limpert said.
For the Comets, with their 13-11 win over Ursuline Academy (Ohio) on Monday, they're set up for a matchup with Sycamore in the regional final.
"Sycamore is a class program," Limpert said. "They run what I call legitimate girls lacrosse. They have strategies. You can tell that they are very well trained. Having won the state championship in Ohio in 2007 and 2009, they carry a little bit of that mystique with them, and we haven't. We haven't done that. We've beat them but we haven't done that."
For Limpert, that's what keeps his team from getting caught up in its regular season accomplishments.
"We want that [a championship] really bad," Limpert said. "Sometimes when you want something so bad, it keeps you a little bit on edge about how to get it."
The Comets will remain on edge due to their tough draw. While only St. Ursula (Ohio), Cincinnati (Ohio) and Mt. Notre Dame (Ohio) stand in the way of Upper Arlington (Ohio), lower-seeded Mason has to play Sycamore on the road.
This time around, Limpert is confident his juniors are very different group than the Comets team that finished 9-8 in 2012.
"When push came to shove, we got shoved a little," Limpert said. "I knew that we would be better this year. I knew they would be better because they're a year stronger physically. They're a year more mature mentally."
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. LM contributors compile the regional rankings.
Check back to LaxMagazine.com every other Tuesday throughout the high school season for updates to the Nike/US Lacrosse Regional Girls' Top 10 rankings and the Nike/US Lacrosse National Girls' Top 25.