Wilmette, Sports

4 overtimes needed to decide New Trier-Loyola girls lacrosse

Whenever the New Trier and Loyola girls lacrosse teams meet, especially in the playoffs, expectations are high. Two of the last three sectional-final meetings have been decided by one goal and at least one of the playoff matchups has gone to overtime.

Nobody, however, saw what ensued Friday night coming.

One overtime period wasn’t enough. Neither was two. Nor three.

It took four overtimes to decide a sectional champion, as the Ramblers finally broke the stalemate on a Keira Cushing goal with about 1 minute remaining to win their second consecutive sectional title and fourth since lacrosse became an official IHSA sport in 2018.

“That’s new territory,” Loyola coach John Dwyer said of the four-overtime contest. “We’ve played overtime games before, we’ve played games where we’ve come from behind before.

“Our kids are built that way. If we were down four goals with four minutes to go, we’d still play the same way. We had some great defensive stands in the last quarter and a half and all the overtimes. I had so much confidence in all our girls.”  

“Having a rivalry like Loyola, that game showed what this game is all about,” New Trier coach Pete Collins said. 

New Trier’s Sonja Keneally (left) and Loyola’s Sophie Goldberg spar in the teams’ sectional matchup Friday.

The four overtimes wasn’t the only new territory covered Friday night.

“I can’t say I’ve ever had a game-winning goal, this is my first one,” Cushing said. “With all the injuries we’ve had this year, we wanted to win so bad for the team, especially on this field. We wanted this so bad. This was for them.

“I saw space when going to the goal and if I dropped low, she (the goalie) dropped low, so I knew if I went high, I could get it past her.”

If it wasn’t for both teams’ strong defense and goaltending, the four overtimes may have been just a figment of everyone’s imagination.

Both goalies made save after save, standing up when their team needed them the most. New Trier goalie Meg Gallagher finished with 18 saves, while her counterpart, Sofia Marino, saved eight shots of her own.

After New Trier fell behind 4-1 in the first quarter, it may have been easy for a goalie, especially a sophomore like Gallagher is, to get discouraged.

But not the Trevians’ First Team All-State netminder.

“She is a competitor,” Collins said. “She’s really learning the mental game of playing goalie, where when they score, you have to move on. That’s not easy to do.

“She’s so steady.”

Facing the early deficit, the Trevians rallied with four straight goals over the next seven minutes, taking a 5-4 lead in the second quarter.

Then the Trevians did something that few teams have done against the Ramblers: hold them to one goal each in the next two periods. During that stretch, New Trier extended its lead to 7-5 at the half and clung to a 7-6 advantage after three quarters.

And they did so by limiting what the Ramblers could do off of the draw. In those two periods, the Ramblers outdrew the Trevians 5-2, including 4-1 in the second quarter, when the hosts made their move to take the lead.

“Our defense played tough, our goaltender is tough,” Collins said. “Meg Gallagher is a special player. There were so many different swings and that’s what changed the momentum.

“We adjusted really well. They scored their second goal on a feed from high to low. We play different defenses, we started in a high pressure man and they said ‘Can we go back to our regular man?’ Then I asked ‘Do you want to go to a zone?’ And they said ‘No we’re good.’”

“With a 4-1 lead, we didn’t keep our foot on the gas and we let them get back into it,” Cushing said. “They’d go on a run and we let it get to us.”

Trevians senior Hana Ashari following one of her six goals in the sectional championship

The Trevians went up 8-6 when Hana Asghari scored her sixth goal, with just under eight minutes to go in the game.

But that’s when the Ramblers started their comeback.

Loyola’s Jocelyn Park, who was playing in her first game since the last time the two teams met on April 17 and with a pin in her wrist, scored a goal to cut the lead down to 8-7. 

New Trier’s Claire Ratke, who also recorded two assists, extended the lead back to two on a goal with 5:48 remaining before Dwyer called a timeout.

A couple of turnovers and a save by Gallagher happened before Emily Couri went on a two-goal run over a span of 17 seconds to tie the game at nine with 2:10 remaining.

A Marino save in the closing seconds sent the game to overtime.

Asghari, who has been a mainstay in the Trevians’ lineup, is just one example of what Collins was so proud of when talking about his senior class.

“Hana has a lot of swagger,” Collins said. “She is someone who is humble and does what she needs to do. Our four captains, they put the team first. They all realized that they bought into doing their job and playing for each other. 

“This was a journey. Our girls realized early on that if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to play offense where it might not be the first look on goal, but one where you drive in, go through two kids or pass it.

“We have so many talented kids who play offense who just want to help the team. Then they realize that that means they don’t need to get a touch, get a shot. When they bought in, the offense started cooking.”

Loyola was led in scoring by Cushing and Emma Burke, both of whom had three goals apiece.

The Ramblers, who have yet to lose to an in-state team, lost a couple of players to injuries earlier in the year and feel like they’ve got more to play for this year.

As great as this matchup was, Loyola knows that it has three challenges to go to reach their goal: a state state title for the second consecutive season.

“It’s a crime for us and for them that we have to play this game now,” Dwyer said. “It can be a proxy for the state championship game and it’s in the sectional.

“Whatever teams we have remaining, we’re going to get their best shot. And we’re going to give them our best shot.”

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Michael Wojtychiw

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