Before entering Loyola, Molly Hulseman set her sights on playing soccer for the Ramblers.
She liked lacrosse, but the fringe sport served more as a diversion than a passion.
“I was huge into soccer,” said Hulseman, who first played lacrosse the summer before sixth grade.
That was until Hulseman met John Dwyer.
The Loyola coach pitched her on lacrosse, and she bought in. Hulseman, who had played elite-level club soccer with FC United, even remembers an uncomfortable conversation with Loyola soccer coach Craig Snower about her decision.
“He scolded me,” she laughed. “I will never forget that.
“But coach Dwyer convinced me. Good choice now. He got me into college (Loyola). He helps all the girls get into college.”
Another reason Hulseman’s happy with her sporting choice is that she’s close to making Loyola history. She and three other seniors, including Meg Perkaus, Stephanie Scherer and Nicole Gleason, have won two state titles and are going for the a program-record third in a row next week.
The Ramblers beat New Trier and Glenbrook South last week to advance to the state semifinals at Hinsdale Central, where they will play Libertyville. The championship game is Friday at Northwestern.
“It’s insane,” said Hulseman, one of 13 siblings in her household. Her junior brother Brendan and freshman brother Brian both play water polo and swim for the Ramblers. “Right now, I don’t think we realize the magnitude of this. It hasn’t hit me yet. But we’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. Everybody is working toward the same goal.”
Added Scherer: “That will be special to share with the team and the school.”
The Ramblers didn’t take long to win their first state title. Loyola went co-ed for the 1994-95 school year, and the girls lacrosse team won its first championship in 1997. The Ramblers now own six state titles, and Dwyer’s been with them for five. No one is more associated with Loyola’s success than Dwyer, who’s had three daughters play for Loyola and later Georgetown.
“Everyone respects him so much,” said Hulseman, the first in her family to play lacrosse. “He gets us to work hard.”
Loyola comes into next week’s semifinals 19-2 and undefeated against in-state opponents. The Villanova-bound Gleason scored five goals in the 21-9 win over the Titans, and five others registered at least two goals.
In the 16-14 win over New Trier in the sectional final at Evanston, Kelsey Gallagher led the Ramblers with five goals. Scherer followed with four scores.
Before taking the field against the Trevians, who the Ramblers beat to win their last two state titles, Scherer fired up Hulseman. Scherer’s going to Notre Dame, but won’t be playing varsity lacrosse.
“I remember her telling me that it wasn’t going to be her last game,” Hulseman said. “She said that would not be acceptable. She was out for blood, and that got me excited.
“I mean, you could tell the New Trier girls wanted it so much, too. There was so much thirst to win that game.”
Scherer entered this week as the team’s leading goal scorer with 59. Gleason followed with 55, while Hulseman is the third Rambler with at least 50 goals. Recently named an Under Armour All-American, Hulseman is first in assists with 36. Four others have more than 20 goals after last week’s games.
“We’re lucky we have such a strong offense,” Scherer said. “We don’t rely on one player. Everybody can attack, and everybody can score.”
Added Dwyer: “That’s kind of the way our offense is structured. It’s best for our team when we have as many as seven relatively equal weapons in the offensive zone.”
Despite all the team’s success this spring, Hulseman didn’t believe it was possible when the season started.
“But we made it work,” she said. “The four seniors have provided the leadership that have inspired the younger girls to work hard.”