Girls lacrosse season preview: Experience, knowledge on rise among players
In this June 1, 2012, photo, Loyola's Anna Schueler gets fouled by a New Trier defender during the state championship game. Schueler scored five goals in the game to help the Ramblers win a fourth-straight title. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Look out for ...
Anna Schueler (Sr.)
Schueler will be heavily relied upon as the Ramblers pursue their fifth consecutive state championship this spring. The Michigan recruit was one of the most dangerous players in Illinois last year. She scored a game-high five goals in Loyola’s 11-7 victory over New Trier in the state championship game.
Kelsey Murray (Sr.)
Murray was the state’s top goal scorer as a junior and earned first-team All-American honors for the second consecutive year. The Stanford recruit also broke New Trier’s single-season records for goals (118), assists (86) and draw controls (102) last season. She will be joined by All-American midfielder Katy Weeks and All-State midfielder Claire McCain this season.
Autumn Koh (So.)
Koh won the starting goalie job at Glenbrook South as a freshman and submitted two of her best performances during a playoff run that ended just one game short of a Final Four berth. Koh committed to play lacrosse at Navy less than two months ago.
Maggie Holohan (Jr.)
The Spartans’ returning players are headlined by Maggie Holohan and Caitrin Holohan. The sisters each earned All-CSL honors a year ago — they were the only Glenbrook North players to do so — and Maggie Holohan was an honorable mention All-State selection by the IHSWLA.
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:12AM
Girls lacrosse has undergone a transformation in Illinois since John Dwyer became Loyola’s coach in 2001.
At that point, Dwyer estimates that about 90 percent of the girls who entered the Loyola program — one of the state’s best, and the winners of the last four state championships — hadn’t played lacrosse before high school.
Now, Dwyer says that number has shrunk to about 5 percent.
“We’re getting kids now that have played since third or fourth grade, on a very competitive basis,” Dwyer said.
But that trend extends well beyond Wilmette. Dwyer has noticed that as the sport has become more popular — more schools have teams now than ever — girls lacrosse players have started playing earlier and earlier.
In fact, the Ramblers have tried to help boost the sport’s popularity and improve the level of play at schools like Mother McAuley. Dwyer and six to eight Loyola players went to Mother McAuley and put on a clinic for a group of about 50 girls a few years back.
“On the girls side, our coach’s organization is very supportive of new programs and emerging programs and growing programs,” Dwyer said. “Just for example, we went down (three or four) years ago in January and did a clinic for Mother McAuley when they were just starting the sport. We’ve helped a number of schools kind of get off the ground and get their program going and stuff like that. If one of those teams comes along and beats us one day, ultimately it’s really good for the program and it’s good for the sport, nationally and for the state.”
Mother McAuley finished 12-5 last year and was ranked No. 12 in Illinois by LaxPower.com.
When Sarah McKenna became the girls lacrosse coach at Evanston in 2008, the first thing she did was start a feeder program to try to close a widening gap between the Wildkits and state powers Loyola and New Trier. That feeder program, which McKenna says has been run by the Illinois Girls Lacrosse Association out of Evanston for the last five years, has helped increase the skill level and lacrosse IQ of her team.
It’s also helped the Wildkits stay more competitive with programs like Highland Park, Deerfield, Maine South and Glenbrook North in the CSL.
“They know where they’re supposed to be, they know why they need to do things,” McKenna said. “They’re very smart. I think that’s definitely helped, and it’s throughout the state. It’s not just at Evanston. They’re getting a lot more coaching and they understand the game of lacrosse a lot better.”