It’s a play Loyola junior Jack Schermerhorn and his teammates have run countless times in practice.
Yet when it produced the game-winning goal of Loyola’s 11-10 overtime win over Fenwick for the state title, it seemed like time stood still.
Senior teammate Tom Baker walked the ball in and lofted a pass to Schermerhorn with eight seconds left. He put it home to give the Ramblers their first championship since 1978, and the first since water polo became an IHSA sport in 2002.
“It was just a matter of execution,” Schermerhorn said. “We’ve run it many times in practice. Walk in, pass it, put it in. That’s all. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Loyola (31-5) led or was tied the entire game. The Ramblers built a 3-0 lead at the outset and continued to fend off Fenwick (31-5) the rest of the game. Loyola star Cameron Shewchuck scored four goals as Loyola took an 8-5 lead into the start of the fourth quarter.
But the Friars, winners of 10 state titles and holders of a 32-0 record at state since 2002, didn’t go away. Bailey Wendt, Andrew Bertschy and Omar Calderon scored unanswered goals in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Calderon’s goal with 23 seconds left was the first time Fenwick had tied the game all night.
“They have more titles than everybody else, and that’s not an accident,” Loyola coach Dan Hengelmann said. “We knew it was going to be a fight to the end. We got hot early, but they made unbelievable switches during substitutions and timeouts. Some of our inexperience kind of showed.”
Fenwick tied the game late in both overtimes. After Shewchuck put in a goal to start the first overtime, Bertschy tied it with 19 seconds left. Then in the second OT, Shewchuck put in a flashy behind-the-back number with 2:11 left to give the Ramblers a 10-9 lead.
Lo and behold, Wendt scored with 21 seconds left to tie it again. But Loyola forced a man-up situation and called a timeout to call the winning play, which put Schermerhorn, who scored 20 goals all season coming into the state tournament, in the spotlight.
“We had a really good talk last week,” Hengelmann said. “I told him, you’re not a bench player. You’re not just a guy. You’re a great shooter. You’re a great player. You need to step up in those big situations. It was perfect. You practice it and you hope it works in a big situation.”
Fenwick found itself in an unfamiliar position. The Friars had never lost a game at the state tournament prior to this.
“This stings,” Fenwick coach Kyle Perry said. “I can tell you tomorrow at our banquet and Monday when they beg me to get back into the pool, the goal is to win state again next year. You saw the guys. They’re not happy right now. We’re not here just to hang out. We want to win.”