Ian Edwards doesn’t get nervous anymore. Not before games, at least. Not when he’s played more games than anybody else in the history of the Verona boys lacrosse program.
Last week, however, was different.
“There were definitely some nerves,” Edwards said. “Not like scary nerves, but just (being) excited and wanting to play. Really just wanting to win and leave my mark.”
Edwards already had left his mark in the school’s record book. After four years, he ranks first with 220 goals and almost 300 points. But he wanted to close his high school career with a state championship.
Mission accomplished. For the fifth time in the program’s history, Verona (13-6) won the Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation state championship with a 9-4 victory over Waunakee (19-3) last Saturday at Schneider Stadium in Waukesha.
“It was something I’d dreamed about for a while,” Edwards said. “That was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
Verona entered the tournament unseeded and struggling. The Wildcats lost to Sauk Prairie in the semifinal round of their conference tournament — a game Verona felt it could have won, Edwards said.
But to Verona coach Nathan Lutterman, that loss served as a wakeup call.
“(After that loss), our offense never played faster, never played harder than the last week-and-a-half of our season,” Lutterman said.
And the coach said it was that intensity that carried the Wildcats over three of the top four teams in the state rankings as they carved a swath through the state tournament bracket, including a victory over top-ranked Kettle Moraine in a semifinal.
The Wildcats held each opponent to six or fewer goals — something Lutterman said was a consequence of going up against the revitalized offense at every practice.
“The level of intensity that our offense was able to bring in practice (was able) to really push and challenge those guys” he said. “They did a great job of running scout offenses for us.
“It shows by how well our defense performed in those games.”
Waunakee coach Michael Reiter said his team gave its best effort.
“The group had an exceptional season, and we played at a high level in almost every game,” he said in a story published on the Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation website. “We played, in my opinion, as good as we’ve ever played.”
Verona got off to a quick start with a goal from Edwards at 10 minutes, 7 seconds of the first quarter, and his assist less than a minute later made it 2-0. Following a goal from Waunakee, Verona went on a four-goal run to go up 6-1.
For his efforts this past season, Edwards earned a second All-American honor and will play next school year at the University of Indianapolis, an NCAA Division II program. His teammate, defenseman Declan Makuch, will play at NCAA Division I Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.
Edwards said his past two seasons, in particular, were especially meaningful.
“Out of all the personal accolades I’ve received, nothing means more than being their captain for two years,” the senior said of his teammates.
And the cycle continues: On Monday, two days after the championship game, several underclassmen had to miss the Wildcats’ end-of-season banquet because of a practice session with their club program.
Not that Lutterman has a problem with that. As he said: “They’re already putting themselves in a position to try and repeat for next year.”