Tom Marechek has gone where no other Baltimore-area boys coach has been able to go. The Friends coach guided the Baltimore boys all-stars to an Under Armour Lacrosse Underclass title at Towson University in three grueling — and very successful — days of tournament play in intense heat against top-flight competition from July 5 to July 7.
To make the weekend even more of a banner showing for the locals, the Baltimore girls won, too, beating Long Island in the finals to make it an unprecedented sweep for Charm City.
Only once have the Baltimore boys advanced as far as the final, although they were unable to claim a title.
However, with Marechek and assistants Keith Gonsouland and Craig Campbell at the helm, the Baltimore squad shook off a shaky opening game and grew progressively stronger as it surged past Long Island, defending champion Philadelphia and neighboring Washington, D.C. by a combined 45-28 in its last three games to secure the crown and finish 6-0.
The understated Marechek, who was a goal-scoring machine in his own right for Syracuse University and the Baltimore Bayhawks during a long and distinguished playing career, displayed a calm demeanor on the sideline while setting an example for the team to keep its poise throughout the tournament.
That paid off the few times the dominant Baltimoreans were contested. Each time a rival came close, they were able to pull away.
"He was obviously a great player," said Boys' Latin rising senior attackman Shack Stanwick, the tournament MVP. "It's easy to respect someone like him who's been here before. He knows what we have to go through."
While standout players such as Stanwick, St. Paul's rising senior attackman Mikey Wynne and Gilman rising senior William McBride were chosen to be on the roster by Marechek — who had the final say on the selections — and his 25 evaluators, the coach also had some heretofore unknowns on the club, especially on the defensive end.
"I really didn't know what to expect," said the coach, whose Quakers play in a league (Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference) that did not have a player on the all-star team. "This was something different for me. But they were all great kids — and very coachable."
What he didn't expect was all the negative feedback he received after the team's roster was announced.
"People told us we couldn't win," Marecheck said. "They said our defense was too weak."
Although only a couple of the longsticks had a very high profile, as a unit Alex Hurdle (McDonogh), Luke King (Severna Park), Brendan Barger and Jack Halpert (both Gilman), William Gaudreau (Calvert Hall) and Hugh Mosko and Matthew Sacks (both Boys' Latin), played well in front of rising junior goalies A.J. Barretto (St. Paul's) and Alex Gipe (Century).
"It's not what there names are," Marechek said. "It's how well they play together, and they played very well."
Yet he wasn't afraid to level some constructive criticism their way when the Midwest rallied from a 14-8 deficit to pull within a goal in the late going of the opener July 5.
Fortunately for Baltimore, with about 45 seconds left Wynne's ride-and-strip of the opposing goalie preceded his back-handed flip shot into the goal to secure an 18-16 victory.
"We gave up a lot of uncontested shots," Marechek said. "We needed to tighten up the middle. Our goalies (let in some shots they shouldn't have, and they know that. That's just too many goals."
He also praised his goalies when they combined for 15 saves in an 11-7 triumph over archrival Long Island.
"Alex and A.J. were key," he said. "It's the first time we held a team to single digits."
The man-down unit was brilliant at one critical juncture against the New Yorkers when Baltimore was whistled for a non-releasable two-minute penalty and only yielded a single goal during that span.
"These kids are good players," the coach said. "What I did was let them play — and I tried not to confuse them. It's not rocket science."