Wilmette, Sports

Ramblers use one of their specialties — a comeback — to win state championship

Trailing by three goals at halftime, the Loyola Academy boys lacrosse team was in familiar territory — maybe even in comfortable and familiar territory.

No, the Ramblers weren’t happy to be down in the biggest game of the season, but it was hardly a new dynamic for a team that had trailed at the half more than six times this season.

So when Loyola rattled off two quick goals against Lake Forest to start off the second half, Ramblers coach Robert Snyder knew his team was where it needed to be in order to win a state championship, eventually overcoming the Scouts 11-8 on Saturday, June 19, in Arlington Heights.

“Our kids played another one-half game for us, but it was awesome,” Snyder said. “They did a great job, fought hard the entire game, fought back. I’m very proud of them. It’s the sign of a great team.”

The win gave Loyola its second IHSA championship since the organization took over the lacrosse postseason in 2018. It is the 12 Ramblers state crown since 1990.

Snyder told his offense that it would score three goals in the first 30 seconds of the second half after trailing 6-3. He settled for two goals in the first 30 seconds of the game to make it a one-goal game with 11:38 left in the third quarter.

That momentum carried over into the final quarter, when with his team down 7-6, junior Will Maheras scored to tie the game at 7-7 with 11:17 to go.

A little more than 30 seconds later Loyola took the lead and then scored the game’s next four goals to complete the comeback and win the state title.

“We knew we weren’t out of it. Down three goals; that’s nothing,” said Connor Ditomasso, who scored five goals for the Ramblers. “You can score three goals in 10 seconds in this game; anything is possible.”

Lake Forest started the game hot, scoring two goals in the first six minutes of the game. The Scouts kept control of the ball and moved it around to score on strong possessions — the Scouts out-shot the Ramblers 12-7 in the first half.

Snyder thought the Ramblers tried to do too much with the ball at times, especially not picking up ground balls in the first half.

“They were patient with the ball,” Snyder said of the Scouts. “We weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing.”

Loyola players gather with the championship trophy at Robert Morris University on Saturday, June 18.

The state championship was the culmination of a tough year for many of the players and coaches. After the COVID-19 pandemic took away all spring sports last school year, the Ramblers were motivated to play for last year’s seniors who didn’t get a chance to fight for a state title.

Snyder mentioned how hard the last year was without the players having the ability to connect with each other in-person. That along with football taking place early in the spring forced the Ramblers to battle some adversity this season.

So moments like being down 6-3 at halftime could not rattle the Ramblers, who were happy to have the opportunity to make it to a state championship.

“We worked all year for this, especially for our seniors,” Ditomasso said. “It was just great winning, getting to throw our helmets for everything, lifts, early mornings, everything. We just had a great season.”

There was never a doubt.

Michal Dwojak

Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He also contributes to The Varsity podcast.

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