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Four varsity letters spell excellence for Towson Times Athlete of the Year

Three-sport athletes have nothing on Bennett Bradley.

The Loyola Blakefield standout played on four varsity squads for the Dons as senior while being a key member of Maryland Interscholastic Athletics Association A Conference champions in volleyball and lacrosse.

Even without star turns in those sports, Bradley would still have had an enviable career as the starting point guard on the basketball team and football place kicker.

To put it mildly, the Towson Times Athlete of the Year is a coach's dream and a no-nonsense player on whom his teammates could rely to make the right play at the right time.

"I first met Bennett at the end of his freshman year when he wandered into an open gym volleyball (scrimmage)," Loyola volleyball coach Tim Baier said. "All I remember is him charging full speed, leaping into the air and spiking the ball as hard as he could straight into the back wall of the gym (easily 60 feet away."

By the time Bradley was a senior, he was the most feared and accomplished player in the league.

"I played soccer as a freshman," Bradley said. "I realized pretty quickly that high school soccer was not for me. And a couple of my friends told me how much fun the volleyball team was."

So much fun that, after what Bradley called getting "decent playing time" as a sophomore, he turned into a terror on the court.

Even so, his final match last fall, against archrival Calvert Hall in the conference championship, started out on the wrong foot.

After the Cardinals won the first game behind Russell Coulter, leaving the Dons (17-0) "rattled," according to Bradley, he helped them regroup by sweeping the next three games.

The outside hitter from Timonium finished the match with 25 kills in Loyola's 40th consecutive win and third straight title triumph.

In football, his 19-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining capped a ferocious rally by the Dons in a 31-28 triumph over Mount St. Joseph to earn a fourth seed and home game in the playoffs.

Bradley also kicked off for Loyola after winning the job in an unusual tryout.

"I was walking to my car when I saw a couple of guys kicking by the uprights," he said. "I tried a couple of kicks and was better than the other guys, so I joined the team. The coaches made it pretty clear I was part of the team."

Other than help with technique from his brother, Eddie, Bradley had no formal training, although he was still an asset for the 5-6 Dons.

In basketball, the 6-foot, 180-pound starting point guard had fun running the offense for a team that was often overmatched in conference play, winning just one game.

Matching up with powerhouse teams from Mount St. Joe and St. Frances was a tall order.

"Against St. Joe, I covered (Ohio State recruit) Phil Booth, a guy who has all kinds of Division I offers," Bradley said. "But it still brought out my competitive nature."

Its lone conference win, over Spalding in the final game of the regular season, came after Bradley dished out 10 assists and Mitch Cross scored 30 points for Loyola.

As for Bradley's final season on the lacrosse field, it ended in spectacular and surreal fashion after one of the worst conference seasons in school history.

The Dons were blown out several times, by 10 goals at St. Paul's and by seven at home against Calvert Hall to finish 3-6 in the conference.

Yet they persevered in the playoffs with the help, in no small measure, from a defense that stifled McDonogh in a semifinal and held unbeaten Boys' Latin to single digits for only the second time this spring.

A prime contributor on a lock-down defensive midfield unit, Bradley came through when it mattered most as Loyola (13-8) prevailed over the Lakers, 10-9, after falling behind, 6-0, in the championship game.

"He was our midfield workhorse from end to end," Loyola coach Jack Crawford said. "He was fearless on groundballs, cleared the ball, played man down defense, was a terrific riding middie and could also be a scoring threat."

Bradley's pick-off of a desperation shot by the Lakers in the final frenzied seconds in the final preceded a wild celebration of perhaps the greatest upset in league history.

"They had to fire the ball in the crease, and I was lucky enough to get my stick on it," he said.

Bradley intends to play the sport at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School next spring, which, Crawford said, "will be lucky to have him in their ranks" for "the outstanding leadership he demonstrated all year long as one of our team captains."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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