NorCal Update: St. Ignatius, Loyola Clash in Big City West Coast Showdown
3d Rising continued its scholastic run in NorCal this week and on Thursday it served up a real treat as St. Ignatius Prep – the top team in the Rising NorCal rankings all of last season – hosted Loyola High School from Los Angeles in a West Coast heavyweight showdown.
It was an absolute battle between two teams that graduated strong senior classes that were loaded with college recruits – with graduates heading off to the likes of the Ivy League, the ACC, the Big Ten and elite Division III schools.
Played on a rainy afternoon in San Francisco on Murphy Field, the game was a back and forth affair for most of the contenst. A 4-4 halftime tie gave way to a thrilling second half that featured outstanding goalie performances, back-and-forth action and transition offense. Despite a tremendous effort by Loyola netminder, the Wildcats were able to take a dramatic 8-7 win thanks to an unassisted goal off an alley dodge by Harvard-bound Mark Stephens with just 13 seconds on the clock.
Here are some of the players who stood out in this one. You can also see our interview with St. Ignatius Prep head coach Chris Packard as well.
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Mark Stephens, Midfield, St. Ignatius Prep, 2019 - Harvard
Stephens had a tremendous game against Loyola HS and capped it with a terrific individual effort on the game-winning tally, which he scored with 13 seconds left, sprinting down the right side of the field and burying a great low-angle shot on the run – definitely threw a little leaner and twister action into it as well. He played tough on both sides of the ball and the middle of the field throughout the game. He’s a strong kid and showed that throwing checks onto midfielders. The righty has a really hard shot and he works hard to create his opportunities. He has a working-man’s, blue-collar feel – not flash, just strong and athletic and with good size to help round him out as a promising college midfield prospect.
Topher Bligh, Attack, St. Ignatius Prep, 2019 – Brown
Bligh operates for the Wildcats as an initiator on offense and he had a productive day against Loyola, finishing with two goals and two assists. He’s determined with the ball in his stick. He’s smaller but is athletic and can use his low center of gravity and good agility to dodge from the wing or X. In this game, Bligh was excellent in transition and showed the ability to make plays getting the ball in and out of his stick quickly, making some great passes to keep the ball hot and beat defensive slides. Right from the start, he was a factor – he pumped the ball cross-crease on the first offensive possession, a transition goal off the face-off for St. Ignatius. He later made a good feed to the crease to set up a nice one timer. Bligh also scored two important goals in a second-half flurry for the Wilcats, first netting a doorstep low shot after cutting from X – faking and finishing low – and then a transition goal. He sees the field well and is always on the move, playing with a lot of energy.
Mac Gates, Goalie, St. Ignatius Prep, 2018 - Hofstra
Gates was excellent in this game – not the first time we’ve seen this California keeper shine in the cage for St. Ignatius. Now in his fourth year as the Wildcats’ starter, Gates really stands out as an athlete who is able to play with a high level of energy throughout the entire game. He’s got a great stance – bent knees, hands way out, eyes wide, vocal. He’s the heart and soul of the St. Ignatius defense and he helps the team play fast from the back end out. Against Loyola, he was reliable and tough to beat, especially from further out. Gates, a righty, also showed confidence in tossing longer range passes to breaking middies and defenders to help the Wildcats play fast out of the back end as they like to.
Carter McCullough, Defense, St. Ignatius Prep, 2018 – Bucknell
McCullough is a tall, wiry strong and fast defender who uses his combination of speed and range to slice up ball carriers with a flurry of overwhelming checks. He has a towering, intimidating presence. He showed the ability to really get out on the ball with speed and surrounding the ball carrier with his slaps, pokes and then closing in for a V-hold and hard shove. He showed his bag of skills off covering a top offensive threat for Loyola – denying him topside and then machete chopping him into submission. McCullough can cover ground and has quick feet when his matchup looks to change direction on him and he is great at using his stick and being really forceful with bursts of checks.
Kaiser Fry, Attack, Loyola HS, 2019
Fry was a consistent threat for the Cubs as a confident dodging attackman. He’s a skilled right-handed player with strong two-handed and one-handed carry that make him hard to cover as he’s determined to stay on his course. He also has decent size and athleticism to make him a formidable presence at attack for Loyola. A transfer from Palos Verdes along with his with his twin brother, Speed, Fry showed patience with the ball, persevering on a dodge topside from X for his first tally of the game. He likes to use his strength to work to the island area, back in and uses his back to go to either direction to score. He’s also a good shooter. After netting two goals against St. Ignatius Prep, Fry would go on to score eight times in the next game against Great Oak.
Alex Horowitz, Attack, Loyola HS, 2020
Horowitz is a smaller but dangerous righty attackman who is really smart off the ball and can shoot with velocity and accuracy. He plays with guts, working to get himself into space for good shooting opportunities. He netted two goals against St. Ignatius and showed off a big blast that might be unexpected given his smaller stature, but he’s got some wrists and good hands and a sense for getting to great shots. He also showed that he can be slippery and hard to track around the cage and underneath the defense, always keeping his feet moving and with a sense for space. Off of a broken up clear, he scored with a great leaner for his first goal. He later showed a variety of different shots and releases to show what a pesky threat he can be to defenses. He finished with two goals on the day, with his other goal coming on a finish from the interior.
James Gilfillan, Defense, St. Ignatius, 2018
Against Loyola HS, Gilfillan showed himself to be a physical, hard-pounding defender who was a real challenge for attackmen to match up with given his size and his aggressive approach. He worked hard, almost smashing into the ball carrier, to force him off his dodge and keep him below GLE. Along with his fellow starting close defenders, the right-hander was part of a tough unit that was fast to overwhelm attackmen once they slowed them off their initial dodge with some punishing checks and then typically swarmed them with slides just below GLE. He was also fast to clear out the groundball on numerous loose scenarios in front of the cage. The multi-sport athlete also serves as a captain for the Wildcats.
Will Parducci, Goalie, Loyola HS, 2019
Parducci turned in a tremendous performance against St. Ignatius Prep, making a lot of great saves and showing himself to be a mentally tough, consistent goalkeeper. He was tremendous in using his body to get to the posts and the low corners. He literally split a half dozen times – not something that looks comfortable, but he did it time and time again and really dialed into the ball throughout the game. He was also explosive and fast with his feet. He made an incredible stop late in the fourth when the game was still tied at 7-7, denying a 5-hole behind-the-back shot that came from right in front of him, wide open shooter. Parducci played behind three-time All-American Joe Theuer last season and he’s getting his chance now to lead the Cubs defense.
Patrick Casani, LSM, Loyola HS, 2018
Casani was a force in the middle of the field and during face-offs for the Cubs, showing support to get the groundballs out and up quickly. He is an aggressive, physical athlete of a defender who goes after the loose ball or his man with a relentless approach. A converted shortstick, Parsini is finding himself as a defender who can create chaos in the middle of the field and out on the perimeter. He scored a huge goal in transition streaking down the field on the break for the Cubs. Coaches praise his story and the hard work to recreate himself as a defensive player after starting out with a shortstick on offense.
Henry Hasenberg, Attack, Loyola HS, 2019
Hasenberg is a slasher of a right-handed attackman who has an assortment of skills and can break down a defender with splits and spins and good quickness and some shake. He dodges with confidence despite coming off of a major injury last year. He showed good field sense – early in the game he picked off a clearing pass and zipped it inside for one of his three assists on the day. He scans the field quickly and attacks his man with his head up. It was obvious that good things were happening when Hasenberg got the ball in transition.
John Pollak, Attack, St. Ignatius Prep, 2018
Pollak is a lefty attackman who good hands and can finish in close and also rip a strong shot from the wing. Right from the get-go against Loyola, he was dialed in and buried a cross-crease feed in transition seconds into the game. He’s got size which makes him a nice target and he can put himself into space and showed soft touch, too, one time taking a feed that was a tad high and putting it over the goalie’s head for a pretty finish as he cut underneath to the doorstep. He finished the day with three goals and an assist.
Michael May, LSM, St. Ignatius Prep, 2018
May is an athletic right-handed LSM who gets all over the field, applies a lot of pressure on the permiter and serves as yet another athletic presnce in the middle of the field for the Wildcats. He had a really slick takeaway and groundball early in the game to make it clear he could throw the right checks and is very fast to the loose ball. He's aggressive when he gets the ball carrier locked into a spot and can shred him with checks and use his agility and skill to make the play fast.
Aidan Hesse, FO/Midfield, Loyola HS, 2018 – Tufts
Hesse is the centerpiece of a strong draw unit for the Cubs, and he was a big part of their ability to control the tempo and possess the ball and wage a major battle with the Wildcats. He’s got good legs and likes to push it and he helped Loyola get momentum downfield off some of his wins. He’s good at getting it out in front and sprinting through the ball.