Loyola Blakefield coach Gene Ubriaco said that “the lacrosse gods smiled on us” after the No. 3 Dons dominated the fourth quarter to rally past sixth-ranked St. Paul’s, 11-9, on Tuesday afternoon in Brooklandville.
Ubriaco was referring to the fact that the Dons were whistled for a whopping nine penalties — to just two for the Crusaders — and lost the first 11 face-offs of the game to St. Paul’s senior FOGO Daniel Davis and yet are still able to remain unbeaten in the early stages of the rugged Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference season.
While acknowledging that “you don’t usually win a game” by being on the wrong side of such key statistics, Ubriaco noted that prevailing in that type of battle has numerous benefits.
”When you can learn a lesson without paying the price, that’s huge,” he added. “We shot ourselves in the foot a ton, but we got a win today and that’s encouraging.”
Make no mistake, Loyola (6-3 overall, 3-0 MIAA A) earned the victory by cleaning up its mistakes to play fiercely down the stretch while closing out the game on a 5-0 run.
Junior attackman/midfielder Mason Cook came alive in the clutch, scoring all of his game-high three goals in the fourth quarter as the Dons overcame a 9-6 advantage.
The Loyola University Maryland commit said that it took his team awhile to find the gaps in the Crusaders’ zone defense, but that “they finally figured it out.”
Besides, Cook said, the Dons “were never going to give up,” despite struggling in the middle quarters to find the net.
St. Paul’s (4-4, 2-1 MIAA A) did some rallying of its own after falling behind, 4-2, in the opening period.
Senior Ben Ellis scored his only goal of the game on a drive down the right alley to begin the second quarter before senior defenseman Gavin Clary knotted the score at 4-4 following Davis’ ninth straight win at the X.
Loyola briefly spurted ahead, 5-4, when junior attackman/midfielder Luke Rush converted one of junior attackman Natt Burnam’s game-high three assists with 7:38 left in the half.
Junior midfielder Justin Brown’s put-back of a rebound of Ellis’ shot tied the score again until senior attackman Brody Atkinson, assisted by sophomore midfielder Luke Bair, gave St. Paul’s a 6-5 halftime advantage when he scored with 22 seconds left in the period.
A brilliant point-blank save by Loyola senior goalie Bennett Wright in the final seconds prevented St. Paul’s from widening the gap.
Junior attackman/midfielder Ty Bleach netted the tying goal for the Dons to open the third quarter that lasted just 12 seconds before senior midfielder Kaden Major snapped the deadlock off the ensuing face-off.
Atkinson did the rest by scoring a pair of extra-man goals to pump up the lead to 9-6, although the Crusaders squandered two golden opportunities — a 6-on-4 advantage and a two-minute extra-man man-situation — to inflict further damage.
”We started getting a little cute with the ball,” St. Paul’s coach Steve Settembrino said. “By not taking our first looks and falling into some bad habits.”
They would pay for that when Cook went to work in the final frame, scoring twice to save the deficit to 9-8 until junior attackman Mason Hill drew the Dons even with 4:24 left in regulation on an assist from senior short-stick Jack Schoenwetter.
The Masons, Cook and Hill, conspired to finally secure the lead with 1:35 to go and senior attackman Owen Dixon emerged from a scrum to fire in the final goal and seal St. Paul’s fate.
”It’s the first time we’ve played a team that plays predominantly a zone,” Ubriaco said. “You can practice it all you want against your own defense. We have to work on it more, but we got enough out of it late. We kind of figured it out a little bit.”
Settembrino said that he went to a zone out of necessity.
”They were taking our short-sticks behind and double-inverting us,” he said. “They have some really good dodgers, so we went zone to take them out of that — and it worked. But then they put some really good shots on goal. Kudos to them. They’re athletic and tough. We couldn’t just sit in a zone anymore.”
The coach added that even though Davis and his mates won 19-of-24 draws, the Fairfield commit was “feeling a little under the weather. But Daniel’s great and he’s tough.”
NO. 3 LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD 11, NO. 6 ST. PAUL’S 9
Loyola 4 1 1 5 — 11
St. Paul’s 2 4 3 0 — 9
Goals: Loyola - Mason Cook 3, Luke Rush 2, Mason Hill, Shane Elliott, Matt Burnam, Owen Dixon, Ty Bleach, Brady Nicholas; St. Paul’s - Brody Atkinson 3, Michael Smyth 2, Gavin Clary, Justin Brown, Ben Ellis, Kaden Major
Assists: Loyola - Mason Hill 3, Matt Burnam 3, Mason Cook, Jack Schoenwetter; St. Paul’s- Luke Bair 2, Matthew Marino, Michael Smyth
Saves: Loyola - Bennett Wright 7; St. Paul’s - Gordon Smith 7