The last time Calvert Hall’s lacrosse team visited Annapolis, the Cardinals suffered one of their worst losses in recent memory.

In its return to the state capital Tuesday, Calvert Hall moved closer to a championship.

The No. 2 Cardinals defeated sixth-ranked Loyola, 11-8, in a MIAA A Conference semifinal at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Georgetown University-bound attack Shuey Kelly scored three goals and Wyatt Hottle added two goals and three assists.

The second-seeded Cardinals overcame a 3-goal deficit, outscoring the Dons, 6-2, to secure their spot in Friday’s championship final. Calvert Hall (11-5) will play top-seed and top-ranked McDonogh, at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex at 7:30 p.m.

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It’s the first title game for the Towson school since its historic 3-peat in the nation’s premier high school boys lacrosse league, spanning the 2017, 2018 and 2019 campaigns. Their 2023 league campaign got off a horrible start with a 13-3 pounding at the hands of St. Mary’s in late March.

Down 6-2 early in the second quarter, the Cardinals did not panic.

“Seems like we’re always down 4-0 early,” said Calvert Hall coach Brian Kelly. “I told our guys that we’re going to have to take the first-round punch. We knew that Loyola was going to come out with a lot of emotion.”

The Cardinals rallied behind faceoff Jackson Strickland and Shuey Kelly. Kelly, who will play for Georgetown University next season, produced a natural hat trick, bringing the Cardinals within 6-5 at halftime.

The Cardinals pulled even at 6-6 early in the third quarter when Kelly fed senior middie Ryan Botek streaking across the crease, and Botek scored without breaking stride.

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Strickland won the ensuing faceoff and took off towards the Dons goal. The senior, headed to Richmond University, deposited a right handed bounce shot to give the Cardinals their first lead at 7-6 with 9 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the third.

Loyola senior attackman Owen Dixon used a feed from senior Matt Burnam to pull the Dons even at 7-7 with 9:06 remaining in the 3rd. Calvert Hall senior attack Nick Steele then converted a nifty feed from Hottle to put the Cards up for good at 8-7 with 7:49 left in the 3rd.

Senior middie Kyle Bacso sent in a left-handed rocket from the top of the crease, and Botek weaved his way inside to put the Cardinals up 10-7 with 6.9 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter. Strickland controlled the faceoff, and Hottle added some insurance with a left-handed laser to put the Cards up 11-7 with 9:08 remaining.

Hottle said Shuey Kelly’s first half close was the turning point.

“I know that when he’s open I have to get him the ball,” said Hottle, who’s headed to Syracuse. “I’ve

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been telling him the past few weeks that he needs to shoot more.”

“They tried to take us out of our flow early, but we stuck to our principles and we knew we would get some open looks,” said Shuey Kelly. “We knew the shots would start to fall.”

Loyola, which lost 6-5 to Calvert Hall in the regular season finale last week, jumped out to an early 3-0 lead Tuesday. The Dons used two goals each from junior midfielder Ty Bleach and junior attackman Mason Hill to increase their lead to 6-2 early in the second quarter.

But the Dons, in their first MIAA A semifinal since 2019, couldn’t maintain their fast start, bringing an end to coach Gene Ubriaco’s tenure at Blakefield.

Ubriaco, who wants to watch youngest daughter, Izzy (Archbishop Spalding), play in college, plans to be an assistant at St. Mary’s starting next season.

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“We’re disappointed now, but we didn’t make the playoffs last year and we made it to the semifinals this year so we had a great turnaround,” said Ubriaco, who lives in Severna Park. “We had a great start, we had a lot of energy, but just kind of ran out gas a little bit. Hats off to Calvert Hall they played great defense. We just couldn’t win any matchups coming down the stretch.”

The final game of the MIAA A lacrosse season will Calvert Hall against McDonogh, who defeated fifth-seed and No. 4 Boys’ Latin, 8-7, in overtime. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals, 9-7, late last month.

It’s the only blemish for Calvert Hall since its forgettable MIAA A league debut.

“Our identity is just play. Our identity is to keep getting better — that’s all we focus on,” Brian Kelly said. “And whatever the outcome is, the outcome is as long as we give great effort.

MIAA A CONFERENCE SEMIFINAL

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at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

NO. 2 CALVERT HALL 11, NO. 6 LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD 8

Calvert Hall 2 3 5 1 - 11

Loyola 5 1 1 1 - 8

Goals: Loyola - Bleach 3, Hill 2, Elliott, Cook, Dixon; Calvert Hall - Hottle 2, Duggan, S. Kelly 3, Botek, Strickland, Steele, Basco 2

Assists: Loyola - Hill, Elliott, Burnam; Calvert Hall - Steele, Hottle 3, S. Kelly

Saves: Loyola - Wright 9; Calvert Hall - Swartz 7

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