By Max Goodwin
The sky was lit with a bright fiery orange hue over the Plaza as the backdrop for Stanley H. Durwood Stadium on the campus of UMKC on May 27th when Rockhurst and Shawnee Mission East High School faced off for the second straight season in a storied rivalry for the LAKC Championship.
The stadium has been the site of so many of these LAKC Championship games in the past, but it hasn’t hosted one since before the pandemic. Nearly a half-hour before the game, the stadium seats had already been filled and the crowd overflowed along the fence line surrounding the field.
This was the night Rockhurst players had waited for all season, with expectations set on following up last year’s LAKC Championship with the school’s first back-to-back titles in over a decade.
“We won last year and we won in dominating fashion,” Rockhurst head coach Tim Reidy said. “So, keeping them engaged and understanding it was a new season was our big challenge all year.”
Rockhurst was once dominant each season in lacrosse, but eventually, other schools overtook them since the last time the Hawklets won back-to-back league championships in 2010 and 2011. Shawnee Mission East has won more titles in the LAKC than any other school.
Rockhurst scored first and controlled the first half, leading 7-3. In the third quarter, a penalty led to Shawnee Mission East’s first goal of the half, and East would make Rockhurst pay for the penalty scoring three goals with a one-man advantage. The sequence turned what looked like a potential easy Rockhurst win into a one-point game.
The Hawklets responded by holding East scoreless the rest of the game. Rockhurst held on to the ball as long as possible and protected its own net. With a 10-7 win and another LAKC Championship, Rockhurst players flung their helmets and sticks into the air and ran to the student section to celebrate.
Senior Zach Giangreco stood back and took in the moment as teammates rushed across the field in celebration of a second straight championship. He had done his best as a leader on a team of mostly younger players to keep his teammates focused throughout the season and not to look too far ahead.
“When I was a freshman I would walk in and see all of the banners in our gym and I’m just happy that I got to be a part of both of these championships because I would always look up at all the others and wonder who was on those teams,” Giangreco said.
Senior Will Gormson had to watch the championship game from the sideline despite having moved to Kansas City from Maryland before his sophomore year of high school to play Rockhurst lacrosse. Gormson broke his foot in a regular season game against Pembroke Hill.
“I knew that even if I was injured I still have to be the best leader I can be,” Gormson said. “But it was really hard because I worked hard to be in that spot and be on this team. I’m just glad that we pulled it out.”
Next year, Zach Giangreco will go to Mizzou to focus on academics and give his body a rest from sports. Gormson will go to VMI and play college lacrosse. These two years will be remembered for how they put Rockhurst back on top of the lacrosse community of Kansas City.