Undefeated postseason yields title

Hinsdale Herd U10 outscores opponents 37-18 in state series, win championship

The Hinsdale Herd U10 Black lacrosse team, with a 5-3 regular season record, went 6-0 in the post-season to become the Illinois Youth Lacrosse League state champions June 2 at Barrington High School.

Parent coach Brendan Goss said his expectations at the start of the season in mid-April did not include a state title for the then third-grade boys.

"We knew we had some good players. Truthfully, we never worried about wins or losses. We only cared about their effort," said Goss, who coaches the team with dad Todd Osterman and Hinsdale Herd coach Harry Meredith.

The team's three losses - all to fourth-grade teams - were some of the most impressive in terms of effort, Goss said. And the boys continued to improve as the season went on.

"There are some kids, I think this is the first year they played, and they became some of our major contributors," he said. "It truly was awesome to see. It was shocking to see the improvement of almost everyone."

Dan Applebaum of East Avenue Lacrosse, who launched the Hinsdale Herd program in 2021, said he has coached a handful of this team's members since they started playing.

"It's a special group," he said. "They have a lot of fun playing together. They all seem to be really good friends off the field as well, the parents included.

"It was awesome to see them play not just good lacrosse, but high-level lacrosse for that age, making smart plays, being pretty skilled for that age and ultimately having a lot of fun doing it," he added.

The most challenging game of the post-season was the state semifinals against the Lake Villa Timberwolves.

"We were down by two with two minutes left," said Luke Schroeder, who plays defense and is one of the seven players from Hinsdale on the 14-member team. "We won by one with 15 seconds left."

The boys improved on that 10-9 win by taking the Palatine Jr. Vikings Yellow team 10-3 in the championship contest. Six different players scored in that game.

"I think we all did good and knew when to pass," said Grant Derry, who plays mostly midfield.

"We're the best fourth-grade team now," Riggan Cuculich, who plays attack and midfield, said.

The 9-year-olds, who all play multiple sports, have anywhere from two to six years of experience playing lacrosse. They attribute their success to working together, sharing the ball, paying attention at practice and being friends as well as teammates. They also acknowledge the game can be challenging.

Alex Crist said playing goalie comes with a lot of pressure to prevent the other team from scoring.

"It can be very hard depending on what kind of shot it is," he said, citing the bounce shot as the most difficult. "When it bounces, you have no idea where it is going to turn."

But mostly they have a lot of fun - and they enjoy the physical aspects of the game.

"My favorite thing is either hitting guys or winning games," Tucker Armstrong, who plays defense, said.

Creating an environment in which players have fun is one of the program's goals, Applebaum said.

"That's much more important than wins and losses or individual accolades," he said. "It's about developing a passion for the game and the relationships that you make on that path."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean