Boys lacrosse: Neuqua Valley runs into hungry Lake Forest squad at state
If you did some breakdown of this year's IHSA boys lacrosse Final Four at Hinsdale Central, you'll notice that three of last year's final quartet were making a return to finals competition from last season.
Defending state champion Loyola was matched up versus last year's fourth-place finisher Wheaton Academy in semifinal number two while runner-up Lake Forest faced a seasoned state finals qualifier in Neuqua Valley in the opening contest.
The Wildcats had appeared in the finals in two of previous three years (2017, 2019) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted by a third-place finish three years ago.
Unfortunately for Neuqua Valley they ran into a Scouts squad that sought redemption from that state title game loss a season ago. With Lake Forest's 12-3 victory in Thursday's opening game at Dickinson Field at Hinsdale Bank Stadium, the Scouts will get the opportunity.
Lake Forest (21-2) will face Loyola Academy (19-3) in a rematch of last year's final Saturday evening for the championship. The Ramblers defeated Wheaton Academy 9-5 in the second semifinal.
Lake Forest established game control from the onset as it took a 2-0 lead after the opening stanza on goals from sophomore Graham Garrigan and senior Brock Uihlein.
The Wildcats would get no closer than 2-1 on Andrew Arimborgo's goal 78 ticks into the second before Lake Forest goals from Harry Kotlarz and Jake Milliman gave them a 4-1 advantage at the half.
A 5-1 third quarter from the Scouts dashed any hopes of a Neuqua comeback as second tallies by Garrigan and Uihlein put them solidly in front at period's end 9-2.
Garrigan's third goal in addition to Patrick Lee's second tally put the finishing touches on the early evening contest in which it outshot Neuqua Valley 35-17.
Scouts coach Marc Thiergart credited his team's preparation prior to the contest that produced the victorious outcome.
"We watched a lot of film and we saw that on faceoffs we really had an edge, so we had the ball pretty much in our sticks most of the game," Thiergart said.
"When you control the game, you control your destiny."
The Wildcats got a strong performance from senior goaltender Charlie Stemen (14 saves) and scores from Arimborgo's senior twin brother Adam and Reese Baron.
Neuqua Valley (15-8) will play Wheaton Academy (17-5) in Saturday afternoon's 1 p.m. third-place game.
Wheaton Academy dropped that contest to York last year.
"Only four teams get this far in the state," Neuqua Valley coach Josh Maluta said. "We obviously didn't get the outcome we wanted today, but luckily we get a chance to get revenge on Saturday. We're going to come out and the guys will give everything they can."