In a season of firsts for the Crusader lacrosse team, there has always been one steady driving force on the team: senior goalie Kevin Mertic. Kevin, who hails from St. Christina, was a nose guard for the football team and answered Coach Paulius’ call for a goalie in Rice’s inaugural lacrosse season in 2011. Paulius was happy to get a football player in the cage for the team, especially one from the defensive side of the line, saying, “a goalie has to have an ‘on the edge’ personality to be able to cope with breakdowns on defense that lead to a one-on-one, usually with disastrous results, as well as the physical ability to come out of the safety of the crease and take down a runaway shooter. Kevin Mertic filled that role this season for us, and consequently, he was awarded Honorable Mention as Goalie on the Chicago Catholic Conference All-Conference team as well as being named to the All-Star team.”
The Illinois High School Lacrosse Association (IHSLA) governs the boys game as the sport has yet to be adopted by the IHSA. The IHSLA has A and B Divisions, with the former including well established teams and the latter including newer teams such as Brother Rice. Mertic was named to the Black Team of the All Star game and Coach Brad Fish from Grayslake North wisely chose to use Mertic in the second half of the game. The White team ran out to an early lead in the first half and led 8-3 at the intermission. Mertic took some time to adjust to the shooting style of the White Team and gave up two early goals so that the Black Team was in a 10-3 hole.
Patiently taking their time, the Black Team battled back on the sharpshooting of three other “southlanders” from Sandburg High School, who narrowed the deficit to 10-12 by the fourth quarter. Sharp clearing passes by Mertic enabled the Black Team to run a few fast breaks, most of which were successful, and the Blacks tied the game at 14-all with about 2:40 left. The Blacks won the ensuring face off and held the ball, looking for an opening; however, their shots were wide, but backed up so that the Blacks retained possession. The Blacks finally found the back of the net at 1:01 to go ahead 15-14. White won the face-off, moved the ball into the Black zone, missed the goal once, but retained the ball and drove to the goal with 0:25 left. At 0:17, they shot, and Mertic stepped up to stuff the shot and make the save, giving the Blacks the ability to run out the clock. Mertic made four key saves in the last quarter to ensure the win. Paulius, who was at the game in West Chicago, wasn’t surprised at all by Mertic’s performance; he said, “If anything has been constant this entire year for us, it’s been the plat of Kevin in the net. When he is on, he is tough to beat. Tonight, Coach Brad wisely used Kevin in the second half to shut down the White offense, giving up only 6 goals while his offense scored 12 goals to win it.”
Congratulations to Kevin Mertic on this accomplishment.