The journey is complete for the St. Vincent Pallotti boys lacrosse team.
The Panthers overwhelmed St. John’s Catholic Prep with its high-powered offensive attack to avenge a loss in last season’s championship and claim the MIAA Conference C title with a 16-9 victory Thursday evening at USA Lacrosse’s Tierney Field in Sparks.
In winning its first league crown since 2016, Pallotti (17-2) complete a season-sweep of its Frederick rivals. Senior attack Aamir Young finished with four goals and two assists for the Panthers.
Senior goalkeeper Jace Wiggins is one of just two players that was with the St. Vincent Pallotti program four years ago when the team finished at the bottom of the conference.
“I can’t be any prouder of my team,” Wiggins said. “Literally, we started from the bottom. When I came my freshman year to the program, we barely had enough kids to field a team. It was just really hard. We didn’t really have any kids that have played before. We grew a lot. It’s all thanks to our head coach Kirk [Dodson]. His ability to make kids that have never played before love the sport is something that not many coaches have. He’s been phenomenal my entire career at Pallotti.”
Wiggins recalled the feeling after last season’s 7-6 loss to Vikings in the title game.
“I remember being in that locker room seeing everybody’s face – you were so defeated,” Wiggins said. “You know that if you caught one more pass or made one more shot, that’s a different ballgame right there. It being that close is something that really [motivated] us to be better.”
The Panthers’ determination was on display from the opening tip Thursday. After claiming the opening faceoff, Young blasted a shot past the St. John’s goalkeeper for a 1-0 advantage, just 29 seconds into regulation.
The Vikings (9-5) tied the game 1-1 with a goal from freshman Drake McGrath with 10:14 left in the first period. St. Vincent Pallotti responded with a pair of scores from junior Matt Mitcheltree and another from Young as the Panthers’ transition offense found its groove.
“On the bus ride up here, I said ‘We are going to run-and-gun and see how things go,’” said Pallotti coach Dodson. “Just up and down the field. Let’s just run-and-gun this and wear them out. You saw that strategy [worked]. That up-and-down pace is what made the difference.”
The Panthers used that pace to push out to a 9-5 lead at the half behind two more goals from Mitcheltree. Young just needed 17 seconds after Pallotti won the second half faceoff to score for a 10-5 advantage.
Young netted his fourth goal to extend the lead back to five goals at 11-6. The Panthers added two more goals late in the third period for their largest advantage at 13-6.
Mitcheltree filled the stat sheet with three goals and three assists.
“We talked about big time players stepping up in the big-time games,” Dodson said. “I told Matt – he’s got one of the best shots I’ve seen - that I need you to be a gunslinger.”
St. John’s Catholic coach Matt Williams appreciated the effort his team put forth Thursday.
In the end, Pallotti’s speed and depth proved to be too much.
“St. Vincent Pallotti has just grown their program so well over the last couple of years,” Williams said. “We have seen them grow. They are more athletic. They had 30 guys vs. our 18. They spread us out and they put on a shooting clinic today.”
The 16 goals Thursday were the most the Panthers have scored against St. John’s. Williams said he doesn’t ever remember giving up more than 7 in any of the team’s previous meetings.
It was sheer relief for Young when the final buzzer sounded.
“Sick and tired of losing to them,” Young said. “Losing to them in the championship last year, to beat them a couple of times this year – I’m ecstatic.”
MIAA C CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
at USA Lacrosse/Tierney Field
ST. VINCENT PALLOTTI 16, ST. JOHN’S CATHOLIC PREP 9
St. John’s Catholic 3 2 1 3 - 9
St. Vincent Pallotti 5 4 4 3 - 16
Goals: St. John’s Catholic – Alex Piriano 4, Joe Novak 3, Drake McGrath, Keller Neuman; St. Vincent Pallotti - Aamir Young 4, Matt Mitcheltree 3, Robert Mitchel 2, Adam Rinker 2, Tye Wiggins 2, Aiden Covington 2, Ben Miller
Assists: St. John’s Catholic – Gavin Prunty 4, Nick Gamarra; St. Vincent Pallotti – Matt Mitcheltree 3, Aamir Young 2, Jakai Butler, Adam Rinker
Saves: St. John’s Catholic – Landon Kunkle 7; St. Vincent Pallotti – Jace Wiggins 9