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Emma Burke did everything possible for an injury-riddled Loyola Academy this year.

Emma Burke Named Midwest Girls' Player of the Year

June 20, 2024
Jonah Rosenblum
Loyola Academy (Ill.) Athletics

As the injuries mounted, Loyola Academy (Ill.) adopted a simple mantra: “Play for more.”

“We got that on the back of our shirts for playoff season,” Ramblers senior Emma Burke said. “I feel like it just reminded everyone that we’re much more than just lacrosse and that we’re playing for the people who can’t play right now.”

As one key player after another succumbed to illness or injury — with the maladies ranging from Lyme disease to torn ACLs — Burke and the Ramblers put “play for more” on their shirts. They also put beads with the initials of their missing teammates on their shoes, so that when they’d look down in frustration, they’d draw renewed hope.

“Whenever we got down on ourselves or just annoyed by a play, usually you put your head down,” Burke said. “And instead of just alone putting your head down, you just see the beads on your shoes, and you realize that it’s a lot more than the lacrosse game.”

Burke and the Ramblers played for more. They gave more. And they came up with a second straight state championship.

On the face of it, Burke giving more is absurd. After all, the Michigan commit was the USA Lacrosse High School Girls’ Midwest Player of the Year in 2023. How much more could she give?

Well, this year, she had to give more as a leader, as one of the captains tasked with leading her teammates through a seemingly endless sea of adversity.

Burke had to give more on defense, as first-team all-state keeper Tia Boyle was out with Lyme disease. The Ramblers also lost key defender Finley Breen midway through the season.

Burke had to give more on attack with the loss of leading scorers Grace Dwyer and Jocelyn Park.

She delivered her best season yet, with 63 goals, 31 assists, 106 draw controls, 42 ground balls and 47 caused turnovers. She demonstrated her versatility in Loyola’s state title game victory over Benet Academy (Ill.), as she racked up four goals, three assists, seven draw controls, three caused turnovers and three ground balls.

Oh, and she played a big role in the Ramblers holding Redwings leading scorer (and Notre Dame commit) Shannon Earley scoreless.

“There’s legitimately good players,” Loyola coach John Dwyer said of the Midwest. “The senior class in this area, the junior class in this area, there’s some really, really good players. I think she does more in every single phase of the game than any girl that we’ve seen, that we’ve played against.”

Emma Burke is the USA Lacrosse High School Girls’ Midwest Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. USA Lacrosse writers select the regional and national players of the year with input from coaches in their respective regions of coverage.

Emma Burke
Emma Burke contributed across the board for the state champion Ramblers in 2024.
Loyola Academy (Ill.) Athletics

Emma Burke

School: Loyola Academy (Ill.)
Year: Senior
Position: Midfielder
2024 statistics: 63 G, 31 A, 106 DCs, 42 GBs, 47 CTs
Also considered: Ellie Beam, Kentucky Country Day (Ky.); Lilly Boyle, Upper Arlington (Ohio); Mileena Cotter, Salem (Mich.); Mia Darr, University School of Milwaukee (Wisc.); Shannon Earley, Benet Academy (Ill.); Ellie McClelland, New Albany (Ohio); Sophie Mock, Carmel (Ind.); Sivanna O’Brien, Lakeville South (Minn.); Maddy Paz, New Albany (Ohio); Isabelle Pohmer, Olentangy Liberty (Ohio)

Burke began her career as a defender. That’s what got her on the field as a freshman.

“That team was loaded, and the fact that she was able to break through as a starter [on] that team, that was really telling because there was no chance a freshman was ever going to play many minutes, much less start on that team,” Dwyer said. “So, she sort of set the tone then, and then really started right away from sophomore year being a two-way midfielder, but she always had that defensive piece.”

As a sophomore, Burke switched to the midfield and worked doggedly on her offense, including her efficiency from the eight-meter arc. But she never lost her defensive touch and the ability to take on an opponent’s top midfielder.

“I just go into each one of those matchups with a lot of confidence, one, because I know that my team will have my side, and two, I know that I’m on the girls for a reason, so I just can’t really doubt myself at all,” Burke said. “And I’ve noticed that I do play a lot better when I do have confidence and I’m not afraid to go out, and so one of the things that I really focus on is to stop their first drive of the game to kind of weaken their confidence and gain my confidence.”

Burke also became a major factor in the circle.

As a senior, Burke actually took fewer draw controls than she did as a junior, and that was all right by her. She loves nothing more than standing on the edge of the circle and battling for the ball, delighting in one of the grittiest moments in a lacrosse game.

Of Burke’s 106 draw controls, Dwyer estimates that the vast majority came from the edge of the circle, a rarity in high school lacrosse.

“Early in the year, Emma was taking some draws, but I would say over 90 percent of her draws were off the circle,” Dwyer said. “Everybody puts their four best players on the circle, right, so for a player coming off the circle to get 106 draw controls is almost unheard of.”

Burke has long stood out for her versatility. And she was made for a season like this one.

The setbacks were endless, and they started before the season even began, as top sophomore Mia Chupaila suffered an ACL injury in November. Boyle ended up missing nearly the entire season as well due to Lyme disease.

In the Ramblers’ 11th game, second-leading scorer Grace Dwyer and key defender Finley Breen were lost to torn ACLs. Jocelyn Park, their leading scorer at the time, also suffered a fractured wrist in that game, an injury that threatened to end her season.

Losing Park for more than a month was a particular blow for Burke.

“Jocelyn was just such a great cutter, and I’m more of a dodger, so one of my favorite things to do was just dodge, and then if someone slid, Jocelyn was always there to cut, so I could hit her,” Burke said. “So without her, it was a lot harder, so I had to learn to dodge and re-dodge or dodge and then hit the outlet, and they hit another girl in the middle, and then I also tried to work on my cuts more because Jocelyn was such a great cutter, so I feel like I wanted to help fill her role in that way.”

There was no time for self-pity. Burke and the Ramblers simply had to give more.

“[She] never blinked,” Dwyer said. “[She] accepted every role.”

They just had to give more. And “play for more.”

Loyola Academy girls' lacrosse.
Loyola beat Benet Academy to win another state championship.
Loyola Academy (Ill.) Athletics

Final Midwest Region Top 10

1. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 22-3
2. Olentangy Liberty (Ohio), 20-4
3. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 21-3
4. New Albany (Ohio), 21-1
5. Kentucky Country Day (Ky.), 26-2
6. New Trier (Ill.), 17-6
7. Benet Academy (Ill.), 22-3
8. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Mich.), 23-0
9. Lakeville South (Minn.), 19-0
10. Carmel (Ind.), 19-3