HINSDALE – Wheaton Academy’s march to the state championship game hit an early snag on Thursday night.
Wheaton Academy had rarely experienced a deficit in a dominant regular season and playoff run, losing its lone game to powerhouse IMG Academy Black from Florida. Since then, the Warriors have won 16 games in a row to put themselves in position to win the program’s first state championship.
After a lightning delay pushed back the start time of the first state semifinal lacrosse game back nearly 90 minutes, the Warriors struggled finding any rhythm in their semifinal against Benet.
Six-plus minutes into the state semifinal, the Warriors found themselves in a two-goal deficit, which prompted an early timeout, especially with Benet goalie Zachary Gorman flashing his potential with two highlight-reel saves in the opening minutes.
Wheaton Academy coach Geoff Weisenborn called the first few minutes of Thursday’s game an eye-opener for his players.
“Benet caught us on our heels,” Weisenborn said. “It was a new experience for us. It’s one of those things we honestly needed to experience. I just told the team (during the timeout) to take a breath and it was early. We just talked about a couple of concepts we needed to tighten up and decision making. The idea was there’s a long game ahead of us, and my job was to try and just give them a moment to collect themselves.”
Sophomore Charlie Foley sparked the comeback with three early goals to lead the Warriors to a 17-10 comeback win over Benet at Benedictine University in Lisle.
The Warriors, who finished in third place last season, seek their first state title in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. title game against the winner of the St. Viator-Lake Forest semifinal. The state championship game will be played at Hinsdale Central High School.
The Warriors (22-1) were led by Foley’s four goals, while Aiden Weisenborn had three goals and three assists. Noah Miller chipped in with three goals and Breck Peacock added two goals and two assists.
Aiden Weisenborn, a senior with 103 goals and 34 assists this season, said the Warriors lived up to their nickname by holding the Redwings (16-5-1) in check for the final three-plus quarters.
“We trust our game and our team,” Aiden Weisenborn said. “We didn’t get possession early in the game. We knew we could still put it out. We scheduled a lot of hard teams to learn to fight back, especially in a game like this. We didn’t panic after being down 3-1 because we knew we could pull through.”
Wheaton Academy senior Gavin Pedone, who had two goals and a pair of assists, said Benet shocked the Warriors.
“We needed to see that (deficit),” Pedone said. “All the credit goes to Benet. They came out swinging hard. We weren’t prepared for that. We had to dig deep and find something in our heart to show we could win this for the program. Losing two years in a row in the state semifinal has been heartbreaking. We’re really happy to be in this moment and be playing for a championship.”
Benet senior Erik Lorenzl had a big game with five goals, while Thom Bartenhagen tallied three goals and Grant Randolph handed out two assists. Lorenzl said the Redwings took a big step in reaching the state semifinal for the first time in program history.
“We had a great start and came out hot today,” Lorenzl said. “It was unfortunate how it turned out, but we battled hard. At the beginning of the season, I thought we would barely make the playoffs, but we made it to state. It’s great. I’m so happy we made it and we have one more game on Saturday and hopefully get third place.”
The Redwings mounted a comeback midway through the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10-8, but the Warriors did not allow a goal in the fourth quarter. Johnny Carrington collected seven saves and Jaret Jawor had two saves for the Warriors.
“I’m super proud of the way they responded and this is an awesome opportunity for us to do something we’ve not done,” Geoff Weisenborn said.