As Archbishop Spalding and St. Mary's met on the lacrosse field on Tuesday for the first time in two years, both entered the game feeling much better about themselves than this time last year.
After the teams went a combined 1-17 in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play last year, they're both off to strong starts this year and appear to be threats in the conference after last year's rare down years.
The Saints ran out to a five-goal lead on Tuesday, then were forced to hang on down the stretch and edged the Cavaliers, 9-8. Nine players scored goals for the Saints, while Aleric Fyock made some key saves late to seal the win and earned him a game ball.
"This is a nine-game marathon, and we've got one in our favor," St. Mary's coach Victor Lilly said. "We're 1-0, and that's all that matters."
St. Mary's appeared to be in control when it led 9-5 after three quarters and and held that lead past the halfway point of the fourth. Cole Llewellyn and Luke Legnard scored a little more than a minute apart to cut the deficit to 9-7 at the 3:17 mark. The teams traded possessions over the next three minutes before Brett Baucia scored for Spalding to cut the margin to one with just seven seconds left. Alex Ulrich made sure there would be no more drama when he won the game's final faceoff and the Saints ran out the clock.
Fyock, who finished with 19 saves, made several in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter before the Cavaliers finally solved him late.
"He got the game ball. We give one out on each win and he earned it today," Lilly said.
Jack Burnett scored 37 seconds into the game and finished with a goal and a game-high four assists for the Saints. After the Cavaliers tied the game at 1 with 11 minutes left in the quarter, Garrett Nilsen, Ian Krampf, Lachlan Hertel, Ulrich and Alex Wicks scored in a three-minute span to give St. Mary's a seemingly-comfortable 6-1 lead.
"They came out ready to go and they capitalized on our mistakes," Archbishop Spalding coach Brian Phipps said. "We were playing catch up from there, and that's tough to do."
The Saints went scoreless for nearly 20 minutes, which allowed the Cavaliers to get back in the game. Legnard scored a pair of goals five minutes apart and William Sherwood added a goal to help the Cavaliers go into halftime down by just two. Though they were able to get back in the game, the Cavaliers didn't score for the final 7:06 of the half.
The Saints pushed the lead back to four in the third on goals from Taylor Bohanan and Ulrich. Patrick Mangan stopped the run with a goal for the Cavaliers, but King Ripley scored late in the quarter to make it 9-5 after three.
"They came out after halftime and got those two goals," Phipps said. "We battled back, but the little mistakes that we're making, good teams are going to capitalize on them, and that's what they did."
After winning just one game all last year, St. Mary's is off to a 10-1 start this year and will host St. Paul's on Friday night.
"We're definitely feeling pretty good," Lilly said. "We're 1-0 heading into Friday night against St. Paul's, so we'll see if we can get another win."
Archbishop Spalding finished 5-11 last year, but already has six wins this year. The Cavaliers also played defending Class 4A/3A state champion Severna Park to a one-goal game last week.
"We have a lot of confidence, even though we're missing some key guys to injuries," Phipps said. "We're playing with a different kind of confidence, so hopefully we'll be ready to go."
GOALS: AS - Legnard 3, Fichtner, Sherwood, Baucia, Mangan, Llewellyn; SM - Burnett, Nilsen, Krampf, Hertel, Ulrich, Wicks, Bohanan, Hauburn, Ripley. ASSISTS: AS - Baucia; SM - Burnett 4, Marquez. SAVES: AS - Brackett 10; SM - Fyock 19. FACEOFFS: AS - 6; SM - 13.