In the MIAA A Conference, widely regarded as the nation’s best boys high school lacrosse league, one thing is for certain: Anything can happen on each Tuesday and Friday in April and May.

Just ask Loyola Blakefield. After establishing the pace in the first three weeks, the Dons stumbled over the final two weeks of regular season play.

Now, it’s the postseason where anything has happened, especially the past two years. Loyola, owners of the most unlikely runs in MIAA A playoff history, is now a game away from playing for the championship.

The No. 5 Dons defeated sixth-ranked St. Paul’s, 14-9, in a quarterfinal contest at Hargaden Field in Towson. Junior attack/midfielder Mason Cook scored five goals for Loyola (11-5 overall), and Shane Elliott added four goals and two assists.

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After squandering a four-goal advantage, the Dons regrouped in the second half to punch their ticket to Annapolis and the MIAA A final four. Loyola, the No. 3 seed, will play No. 2 ranked and second-seed Calvert Hall Tuesday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The Dons lost to their longtime Towson rivals, 6-5, Tuesday in the regular season finale, their third loss in five games after a 5-0 start. The setback cost them the No. 2 seed and a bye into the semifinals.

Settling for the confines of Hargaden, Loyola regrouped Friday, scoring seven of the final nine goals to advance to its first semifinal since 2019.

“I think we got a little complacent when we were undefeated,” said Dons senior attack Matt Burnam. “We started buckling down…today, we put it all together for the whole 40 minutes.”

The faceoff play of Kyle Powell (left) and Mason Cook's five goals were vital for Loyola Blakefield Friday. The No. 3 seed Dons defeated sixth-seed St. Paul's, 14-9, at Hargaden Field in Towson.

Burnam finished with two goals and three assists, and junior Ty Bleach tallied twice for the Dons. Bennett Wright stopped 14 shots in goal, and Kyle Powell did a yeoman’s job on faceoffs.

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“He’s (Powell) a senior, just a big strong football kid,” said Loyola coach Gene Ubriaco. “He doesn’t have the snappiest technique, but he’s a tough, tough kid and gave us a big lift today.”

After scoring the first four goals, Loyola found itself in a 7-7 deadlock after St. Paul’s Luke Bair’s pass deflected off the stick of a Loyola defender and into the goal with 8 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter. The Dons answered a little over a minute later as Cook finished a pass from Elliott.

Bleach scored unassisted, pushing the lead to 9-7. Powell won the ensuing faceoff and Cook buried a shot off Owen Dixon’s helper. Bleach deposited a shot high past Crusader goalie Gordon Smith, capping a run of four goals in 2 minutes.

“I felt like with all the penalties, it was like trying to play with a refrigerator on your back, which make things a little bit harder. But I never worry about our guys responding because we’ve played a really, really tough schedule and they have always responded well,” Ubriaco said. “We lost a couple games, so we were like a wounded dog with a lot of pride and I think you guys saw that today.”

Ubriaco, in his final season at the helm, saw his defense grind on St. Paul’s over the final 20 minutes of regulation. Longstick Brady Nicholas bullied the ball out from a Crusaders player, got the groundball and headed downfield. He gave the ball up to Burnam, who fired a shot into the net for a 14-8 advantage with 8:16 left in regulation.

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“We had some guys step up…it’s so hard to win in this league,” said Powell. “We did what it took and got the win.”

Senior attack Brody Atkinson recorded a hat trick for St. Paul’s (8-8), and Bair added two scores and an assist. The Crusaders, who missed the postseason despite a solid showing overall last season, made the six-team playoff this spring as the No. 6 seed under second-year Steve Settembrino.

“This group got St. Paul’s back to the playoffs, which should be a standard for this program and has been for awhile,” Settembrino said. “So they set the standard for what’s to come, and I’m proud of them. They left it all out there on the field today — Loyola is a heckuva team.”

The Dons are off to “Naptown,” and a rematch with Calvert Hall, arguably the hottest team in the MIAA A. Loyola, which won the MIAA A title as the No. 6 seed in 2013, lost to Calvert Hall in the 2019 semifinals at Towson University.

“It’s just belief, having our leaders lead and believing in what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished this year and just building on all of it,” Cook said. “We know we’re not done. We have two more games to win and we’re going to win them.”

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St. Paul’s 1 4 2 2 - 9

Loyola 4 3 4 3 - 14

Goals: St. Paul’s Atkinson 3, Bair 2, Brown, Davis; Loyola - Cook 5, Elliott 4, Bleach 2, Burnam 2, Nicholas

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Assists: St. Paul’s - Bair, Bortner, Marino; Loyola - Burnam 3, Elliott 2, Dixon, Lala, Nicholas

Saves: St. Paul’s - Smith 9; Loyola - Wright 14

Loyola students storm the field after Friday's MIAA A Conference lacrosse quarterfinal. The Dons defeated St. Paul's to advance to Tuesday's semifinals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. (Derek Toney)

Derek Toney is content editor of Varsity Sports Network, a high school sports news network that became part of The Baltimore Banner in August 2022. 

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