EVANSTON — Loyola girls lacrosse coach John Dwyer never referred to Elizabeth O’Connor as his assistant.
Dwyer considered O’Connor to be another head coach, and he always made sure to mention how she contributed to the team’s success.
Following the Ramblers’ 12-8 win over New Trier in Friday’s state final at Northwestern’s Lakeside Field, Dwyer again steered the attention toward O’Connor to announce she would be stepping down from coaching for personal reasons. O’Connor, a former player at Loyola and an Evanston native, was on the sideline for six seasons, all of which ended in state titles.
“She’s made an enormous difference to our teams,” Dwyer said. “I hold our teams to a very high standard, and she reinforces that. She might hold them to a higher standard than I do, if that’s possible.”
A 2002 graduate of Loyola, O’Connor, then Elizabeth Kadison, captained Dwyer’s first team and led the Ramblers in points as a senior. After one season playing club lacrosse at Indiana, O’Connor transferred to Boston College, where she went from walk-on to scholarship player and team captain.
Upon graduation, O’Connor returned to the North Shore to start her professional career. She said coaching lacrosse didn’t really cross her mind.
“It wasn’t something I had planned on doing,” O’Connor said. “Obviously, I had a great relationship with John. I had always helped him out with camps, and I loved being part of the game. I realized how much I learned about it from him, from playing at the college level, that I thought it was a great opportunity to give back to Loyola.”
Loyola senior Maggie Nick said O’Connor was one of the best coaches she’s ever had.
“She holds people accountable,” said Nick, who plans to continue her playing career at Stanford. “She understands what you did wrong and will tell you why. She had an answer to every possible question I had.”
O’Connor informed Dwyer about her decision in early May on a bus ride back to Wilmette after a game in Milwaukee.
“I remember it clearly,” Dwyer said. “It was right around the border of Wisconsin and Illinois.”
O’Connor said she was nervous about telling Dwyer, fearful of disappointing him.
“I didn’t know if there was going to be a right time,” she said. “I just spit it out. He was very gracious, and he reassured me that I wasn’t letting him down.”
O’Connor and Dwyer withheld the news until the day before the state final. At practice at the school’s Glenview campus, O’Connor spoke to the players about her future.
“The impact she had was tremendous,” Nick said. “I’m happy I’m a senior because I wouldn’t want to play without her.”