Carmel enjoys winning playoff start.
The Carmel Catholic boys lacrosse team is no stranger to success in the postseason, having finished runner-up in each of the last two years in the Lacrosse Cup B Division playoffs.
And now that it has become an official IHSA sport, with the playoffs started, the chase is on for that first-ever official state championship trophy.
And coach Charley Dever and his team got off to a fast start in that quest, upending the Antioch co-op team 11-5 in the Grayslake North sectional quarterfinal matchup held in Mundelein on Monday afternoon.
"We graduated a lot of seniors, but we're improving with every game," Dever said of his team, which improved to 10-6 overall and next faces top seed Warren, a 20-8 winner against Mundelein on Monday, in a 5:30 p.m. Wednesday sectional semifinal at Grayslake North. "We have a young offense and great leaders on defense and are just looking to make a strong playoff run."
Antioch co-op, comprised of players from Antioch and Lakes High Schools, played some stingy defense in the first quarter, holding the Corsairs to a lone goal by sophomore midfielder Avery Bugaj at the 1:47 mark.
But then the Corsairs offense started clicking with 5 unanswered goals in the second quarter that helped produce a 7-1 halftime cushion.
"We started a little slow but then our energy picked up," said Carmel senior tri-captain and defender Kevin Hunt. "The second quarter and starting off strong in the third were huge for our momentum."
Junior midfielder Max Hardin scored twice, while single goals were scored by junior attackers Jackson Galdoni and Matt Chernesky, and Bugaj with his second, accounted for the 5-goal Carmel spurt.
Antioch co-op sophomore middie Tommy St. John got one past Corsair senior keeper John Moran (11 saves) to make it 6-1 with 2:12 left in the half, and Bugaj followed with the hat trick with 12 ticks left to make it 7-1 at the half.
Junior middie Cole Danner then won the opening face-off in the second half and only 4 seconds later Hunt was blasting one past Halperin for a quick 8-1 lead.
"He is such a great leader and fantastic player, and he's been playing injured," said Dever of Hunt.
Galdoni then scored his second and junior midfielder Nate Langille tallied for Antioch co-op on a man-up situation, but Carmel Catholic was still in control 9-2 heading to the fourth.
Antioch co-op, which is only in its second year as a program, finished the game -- and the season -- on a strong note with 3 goals in the fourth. Sophomore middie Joey Maggio popped one in with two defenders on him, Langille added his second and sophomore middie Jacob Magad tallied once.
Senior attacker Forrest Fay and Bugaj scored for Carmel Catholic, which outshot its foe 35-27.
"The confidence and growth of this team after only one year is incredible," said Antioch co-op coach Matt Larsen. "We've really improved our possessions and increased our defense. We start a little slow but usually play well in the second half."
With his 11 saves, Halperin stopped 194 shots on the year for Antioch co-op, which finished 9-9 after going 4-11 in its inaugural campaign.
Langille (58 goals) and senior attacker Gino Riforgiato led the offense (57 goals).
Warren regional: At Warren, No. 20 Grant upset No. 14 Antioch, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21 to get its first postseason win in program history.
Junior outside hitter Derek Kolb led Grant with 14 kills while junior middle Ian Fox added 9 kills and senior middle Andrew Ryczek had 5 kills and 3 blocks.
Junior libero Travis Kolb had 3 aces.
Lake Zurich regional: At Lake Zurich, No. 9 Mundelein out-lasted No. 24 Rockford Auburn, 25-22, 23-25, 25-17. Also at Lake Zurich, the No. 10 host Bears swept No. 23 Rockford Guilford, 25-12, 25-16.
Lakes regional: At Lakes, No. 19 Grayslake North rebounded from a first-set loss to upset No. 13 Lakes, 23-25, 25-18, 25-14.
Jarod Hesse and Nick Anello each had 5 kills and 8 assists while Sam Inmon had 25 digs.
Grayslake North moves to 14-21 on the season.