After a rocky start to the season, Calvert Hall’s rejuvenated lacrosse team has been finding its footing of late.
The Cardinals had reeled off four straight wins before meeting second-ranked McDonogh late Friday afternoon in front of a nice crowd and a national television audience on ESPNU. And despite playing well in some aspects of the game, especially six-on-six defense, No. 5 Calvert Hall could not quite overcome McDonogh’s ability to make key plays when they were needed the most.
The Eagles never trailed in their 9-7 victory, relying on poise and talent to pull out the win and stay close on the heels of No. 1 Loyola Blakefield in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference standings.
While the game was closer than expected, McDonogh (11-1 overall, 5-1 MIAA A) proved more resilient in critical moments.
”I thought our kids played well,” Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly said. “We just had too many sloppy turnovers (10 in the first half). Our clearing game was really poor, which is not like us. We gave them so many opportunities. They had the ball about 80 percent of the time.”
Even so the game was tied, 2-2, after the first quarter when junior attackman Luke Miller and sophomore midfielder Bogue Hahn scored for McDonogh and senior midfielders Ryan Botek and Wyatt Hottle answered for the Cardinals (6-4, 3-2 MIAA A)s. Sophomore attackman Brendan Millon rifled in a low-to-high laser to give the Eagles a 3-2 advantage that was added onto by junior midfielder Chase Green’s transition finish with 5:23 left in the first half.
Senior attackman Shuey Kelly cut the deficit to 4-3 with 20 seconds left in the period to give Calvert Hall some hope that was immediately dashed when Eagle senior faceoff specialist Zach Hayashi won the ensuing draw to allow junior midfielder Ben Firlie to ripple the net just 15 second later.
Although Hottle converted a Kelly feed to draw the Cardinals back to within a goal with just under nine minutes left in the third period, Hayashi snared the next face-off to set up an all-Million goal when senior McCabe fed his younger brother Brendan to extend the Eagles’ lead to 6-4 just 13 seconds later.
Despite winning 13 of 20 draws, Hayashi said that it was a tight battle at the ‘X.’
”Hats off to Calvert Hall,” said Hayashi, who will attend the Naval Academy in the fall. “They did an amazing job. Jackson (Strickland) and Ben (Cuomo), we go way back. They’re great guys and it’s always fun taking the field against them. And it’s Calvert Hall-McDonogh. It’s just so much fun. I’m just grateful to be able to play in this game.”
Hayashi also praised his team for finding just enough firepower to prevail.
”We were able to get a lot of transition on them,” he added. “Our offensive unit did an amazing job. In low scoring games, we’re going to need clutch goals — which the guys brought.”
Calvert Hall netted a couple of clutch goals of its own when senior midfielders Joe Duggan and Noah Brannock solved sophomore goalie Aiden Seibel to tie the score at 6-6 early in the fourth quarter. That’s when McCabe Millon’s wicked wrister eluded junior goalie Alex Swartz to break the deadlock just over a minute later to put the Eagles back on top.
Senior longstick defender Mac Christmas then gave McDonogh some breathing room when he hauled in Seibel’s pass and galloped to within striking distance of Swartz before unloading a high-to-high rocket that whistled under the crossbar for an 8-6 lead with 7:41 left in regulation.
Senior midfielder Kyle Bacso converted a Hottle look to inch Calvert Hall closer with just over three minutes to go, although Hahn’s quick-stick from Miller with 1:57 remaining restored the two-goal bulge and closed out the Cardinals.
McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner, whose team is ranked 10th nationally by Inside Lacrosse, said that injuries to Firlie and McCabe Millon have hampered the offense.
”In fairness to our offense, we’ve had a lot of moving parts,” he said. “We’re struggling to get into our rhythm, and with guys who have been injured, it’s tough. I say that knowing that Calvert Hall’s defense was excellent today and that their goalie was really good. Taking nothing away from them, we just have to work harder as coaches to get our guys back in a rhythm.”
Hilgartner was wearing a One Love Foundation t-shirt during the game, honoring the issues that are near and dear to that organization’s mission of educating people on the importance of healthy relationships.
The non-profit was created in 2010 following the death of Yardley Love, a Notre Dame Prep graduate and University of Virginia lacrosse player who was killed by her boyfriend shortly before graduation.
”We do a program at school every year for our junior class,” he said. “It’s hugely important topic for young people, for all of us really, knowing the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships. We’ve been really committed to that as a school. We’re always going to prioritize it, because we think it’s that important for our guys.”
NO. 2 MCDONOGH 9, NO. 5 CALVERT HALL 7
Calvert Hall 2 1 2 2 — 7
McDonogh 2 3 1 3 — 9
Goals: Calvert Hall - Wyatt Hottle 2, Ryan Botek Shuey Kelly, Joe Duggan, Noah Brannock, Kyle Bacso; McDonogh - Bogue Hahn 2, Brendan Millon 2, McCabe Millon, Luke Miller, Chase Green, Ben Firlie, Mac Christmas.
Assists: Calvert Hall - Kyle Bacso, Shuey Kelly, Noah Barnnock, Joe Duggan, Wyatt Hottle; McDonogh -McCabe Millon, Luke Miller.
Saves: Calvert Hall - Alex Swartz 11; McDonogh - Aiden Seibel 8.