Although St. Ignatius has been a perennial Northern California lacrosse power for more than a decade, something was always missing for the Wildcats at the end of the season.
Playing as an independent, St. Ignatius had never played in a postseason game since lacrosse became an official CIF sport.
That all ended this season, when St. Ignatius (20-2) won the inaugural West Catholic Athletic League lacrosse championship by beating Bellarmine of San Jose earlier this month.
“It’s one of those things where 10, 20, 30 years from now, these guys are going to look back on this and say, ‘you can’t take our name off that trophy, we won it,’” said St. Ignatius coach Chris Packard, who was dripping wet after a celebratory Gatorade bath that came just as the final buzzer sounded. “It feels great and it’s bittersweet because it’s over, but this is what we’ve strived for, for 10 years. We now have a league championship.”
The St. Ignatius win completed an undefeated WCAL season and a three-game season sweep of a talented Bellarmine (16-5) squad.
The Wildcats have been headed all year by outgoing senior midfielder Rob Emery, who will be playing for college lacrosse power Virginia next season. Emery’s 53 goals and 16 assists gave St. Ignatius a boost all season. The Cavaliers are currently in the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four that is being played in Baltimore this weekend.
“It’s a good way to finish off my high school career. You can’t ask for more than the school’s first WCAL championship,” Emery said.
Former St. Ignatius coach Greg Angilly, who is now the athletic director at Urban School, coached the Wildcats to a 109-15 record over six seasons at the helm from 2003-08, including an undefeated season in 2007.
“I can’t tell you how many seasons ended with an anticlimactic game and victory for [us],” Angilly said. “One of the biggest struggles our coaching staff had during my six years at St. Ignatius was trying to find something meaningful to work toward at the end of the season. Obviously, the boys don’t play just for the title, but it certainly helps to have something to look forward to, a goal that you can achieve if you do things the right way and work hard everyday.”
Angilly also sees the WCAL postseason as a bridge to a potential state championship. In other, more traditional sports, the WCAL is considered to be one of the best high school leagues in the state.
“I’m betting it won’t be long before there are several teams vying to knock of the Wildcats,” Angilly said. “The WCAL conference gets us one step closer to a state championship.”