After years of competing against clubs that were either new to lacrosse or still testing out the waters, local teams made an important switch.
The lacrosse teams in the Fox Valley Conference have joined the Illinois High School Lacrosse Association this season.
“We have been talking about moving for a while now, and we always said if one of us goes then we all go,” Jacobs coach John Bigler said about making sure all of the local teams made the switch at the same time.
Formerly, local teams played in the Northern Illinois Lacrosse Association.
The collective move allows the teams to still have a structured conference while having the opportunity to experience a vast range of talent.
“We want to keep growing the sport in terms of knowledge in our area as well as the school,” Bigler said. “The switch allows us to ideally compete for the state championship, and if nothing else, we get a chance to compete at a high level and expose ourselves to what’s out there besides the club scene.”
The move came at the right time because the sport is on the upswing. Bigler said he sees 10 to 20 new players come out for the team each year in part because of its growing national attention, but at Jacobs, winning plays a large role in the turnout.
The Golden Eagles are especially excited about the move, as
they are coming off a phenomenal season. The Golden Eagles went 18-0 and rode the undefeated season to a NILAX championship, defeating Cary-Grove in the title game.
Jacobs will return 15 players from last year’s squad and will look to maintain a high level of performance.
“We’re really excited to finally start playing again and see what we’ve got,” said Zach White, senior defenseman and team captain. “Our entire starting defense is coming back and we will be really tough.
“I expect our defense to be one of the best in the league. Our offense has a lot of new pieces, but guys are stepping up and have looked excellent in practice.”
Bigler didn’t expect the Golden Eagles to have such a great season last year, but he enjoyed their great success. The undefeated run caught him off-guard because only six players returned from the previous year, but they meshed well and rattled off 18 straight victories.
He sees this year’s team as being similar, because the players are comfortable with each other. Many of the core units are coming back and are familiar with one another’s style of play.
“We’re anticipating good things,” the sixth-year head coach said. “We’re obviously not expecting an undefeated season again, but we are definitely not rebuilding, not at all.”
Challenges to Jacobs this season should come from Prairie Ridge, which excels on defense and goaltending. The Wolves won the junior varsity NILAX title last season. Also, Cary-Grove looks to be competitive again.
Some teams are taking their time, however, and easing into the new level of competition.
Both Dundee-Crown and McHenry will only field JV teams this season to test the waters of the IHSLA.
“We only have three returning seniors so we decided that with the switch, we would spend this year getting acclimated to the IHSLA competition,” Chargers coach WIlliam Petersen said. “We have large numbers of returning juniors and sophomores so we feel we this format will establish a great foundation for future years for our program.”