Girls lacrosse fights through season


Photo courtesy of Bridget Lynch

OPRF and the greater Chicagoland area had an unseasonably cold finish to the month of March and an unusually cold start to the month of April. OPRF girls lacrosse has gotten off to a similarly cold start. Since trouncing Lane Tech March 21 16-3, the Huskies dropped four games in a row, losing to St. Ignatius 13-7, Lake Forest 21-7, Hinsdale Central 13-1, and Benet 8-7 in overtime.

“We know wins feel better than losses, but it comes down to discipline, being smart, and execution,” says senior captain Jessica Sloan-Cooper. “None of us are done and feel defeated because we know the pieces are coming together where they belong. Nothing stops or slows down regardless of the bumps we’ve had early on. We do not pity ourselves or hang our heads, we simply assess, reassess, then put into action our next plan.”

The Huskies have been a victim of their daunting schedule this season, with nine of their 13 non-conference opponents ranked in the top 20. All five of their recent opponents were top 15 teams, with three being ranked in the top 10. Head Coach James Borja still has faith in his team to get the job done. “One, I think we are good enough to compete and beat those teams. Two, it will also prepare us for later on in the season; down the stretch, some of these games really matter. We’re playing the top team in Wisconsin, the top team in the state, New Trier and then we have a really difficult sectional,” says Borja. We haven’t won many of these games, which is tough for morale, but the girls understand there are bigger lessons to be learned.”

The Huskies game against eighth ranked Benet Academy was a real growing experience. The Huskies went down big early, trailing 5-1 late in the first half, before junior Grace Koch netted her second and third goals to pull the Huskies within two at the half.

Benet opened the second half with a goal, before freshman Hannah Simon scored twice to put the Huskies within one.

The Huskies took the lead with around six minutes left, before Benet drew even. The Huskies lost in overtime, with Benet scoring a free path goal, their fifth free path goal of the game.

“The loss was really tough,” said Koch. “However in our eyes, the game against Benet was a real breakthrough for us. We have been working all week on diversifying our offense, and it all started to really come together. In practice we are just going to continue growing our offensive chemistry and keep grinding. I think we all understand and appreciate the lessons from each loss. If we were playing and beating all of the worst teams in the state, it would make us relax but since we aren’t a sports powerhouse like Hinsdale or New Trier, we have to stay on our toes. That growth mentality is what keeps us going every day.”

On April 16, the Huskies were back in action against eighth ranked Stevenson. The Huskies once again got off to a slow start, trailing 4-1 midway through the first half. But similar to the Benet game, the Huskies rallied and tied the game up going into the half. However, the Huskies lost momentum deep into the second half, and the game turned into a stalemate. In the closing minutes, Stevenson scored two late goals to pull away with a 9-7 win.

The Huskies were back in action April 18 for the third time in three days, and they finally broke through, winning 12-6 against Glenbrook South. A common theme throughout the season has been the stellar play of Koch. On the season, Koch is the Huskies leading goal scorer, scoring 23 goals.

“Grace plays every minute of every game at midfield which is not easy, it’s a lot of running and you have to play both defense and attack,” says Borja. “She’s definitely playing like our MVP right now, she’s scoring goals, she’s winning ground balls, and defending really well.”

“I find myself taking leadership on the field by being everyone’s biggest fan,” says Koch. “I have an optimistic mindset towards the potential of our players, and want them to achieve their incredible. This manifests when on defense, after hard plays, I remind everyone to trust in the hard work they put in and for offense, I always push our younger players to get involved and cheer them on, no matter if they succeed or fail.”

The Huskies have 13 games left before they enter the playoffs, and they will continue to be tested. They still have to play the No.1 team in the state, New Trier and the No. 1 team in Wisconsin, University School of Milwaukee.

“Our goals for the season are simple: be an unbeatable and feared team,” says Sloan-Cooper. “We want to fight for everything every single time and show no mercy. Our program is only going up and this season is about building the future of OPRF GLAX, while simultaneously executing the steps to be recognized as a threat right now.”