The 2009 season will go down in the history books as one of the best ever for the Saints lacrosse program. A second place finish in the Great Lakes Lacrosse League (GLLL) capped off a remarkable regular season run through the South Division.
This past weekend the second ranked Saints took their 7-1 record into the league championship held at the University of Wisconsin - Stout. Two victories were needed to play in the championship game on Sunday afternoon.
First up for the Saints was the West Division Champion, University of Wisconsin - Lacrosse with 7 wins and 1 tie. The Saints were able to capitalize early and often with 5 goals in the first quarter. The Eagles kept it close with two goals of their own late in the quarter. Sophomore Jeff Byers and the entire defense clamped down for the remainder of the game allowing just one goal on eight shots. The Saints added two goals in the second and again in the third quarter to pull away from the Eagles. A 9 - 3 victory set up a rematch with the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) for a birth in the league finals.
On April, 19th the Saints defeated MSOE 8 - 1 on a cold and rainy day in Chicago, IL. The Raiders were looking to avenge the loss and came out with high intensity. Two early goals by the Saints forced MSOE to burn a timeout early in the quarter. The Raiders fired back with two goals to tie the game. The second quarter belonged to the Saints scoring five times with five different players. The Raiders could not get any offence going against Byers and the Saints defense. The Saints never looked back and defeated MSOE 12 - 4. The win put #2 Holy Cross in the championship versus #1 University of Wisconsin.
The defending champion Badgers were looking for their sixth championship in 7 years. Wisconsin won the Central Division and posted a 9 - 2 regular season record. "We were excited to be in the championship game," said Head Coach Mike Hodge. "The team had one goal this year, and that was to win a league title."
The Badgers came out running and controlled much of the first half. They tallied three goals in the first quarter. However, the Saints defense stepped up and held the Badgers scoreless in the second. "Jeff really kept us in the game," said Hodge. "Our offense was flat for the first 3 quarters, and he kept the game manageable at half."
The third period resembled much of the first as the Badger attack put three more goals in the net. Heading into the fourth quarter the Saints were down 6 - 0. With six minutes remaining the Saints were able to finally get on the scoreboard. Over the next five minutes of play the Saints took control on offense and managed four goals to pull within two. However, the final minute was killed by the Badgers and the Saints eventually fell 6 - 4. "Our offense finally got in sync, but it was too late" said Hodge. "The Wisconsin defense was relentless and we could not execute when we needed it the most."
The Saints finished the year at 9 - 2 and second in the league. Jeff Byers was named tournament Most Valuable Player with 30 saves over a three game span. A young team with only three seniors, the future looks bright for the Saints lacrosse program. This marks the third consecutive winning season for the Saints.