The Loyola lacrosse team won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship last year with its standout players stepping up to take hold of the big moments.
The No. 6 Dons picked up where they left off in Friday's league opener against No. 4 Gilman.
Junior midfielder Ryan Conrad finished with two goals and five assists, and junior goalie Acie Newton had 10 saves to lead Loyola to a resilient 9-8 win over the visiting Greyhounds.
Trailing for much of the game and down 6-5 going into the fourth quarter, the Dons scored four straight goals and held off a late charge from Gilman to claim the win. Loyola improved to 5-3 overall and 1-0 in the MIAA, while the Greyhounds evened their record at 3-3 and are 0-1 in the league.
"It was amazing — we fought hard the entire game," Conrad said. "It was a really tough game, Gilman is a great team, but we came out and we were ready to go, we prepared a lot this week and we just had a great game."
Conrad found junior attackman Alex Roesner for consecutive goals to open the fourth-quarter scoring the second giving the Dons the lead for good at 7-6 with 7:49 to play. Conrad then split two defenders to score his second goal of the game and Brian Smith made it 9-6 with 2:33 left.
Smith's goal turned out to be pivotal, with Gilman getting scores from William McBride and Andy Matthews less than one minute apart to cut the lead to 9-8 with 31 seconds to play. But after winning the faceoff that followed, the Greyhounds weren't able to get the equalizer with Chase Wittich's shot going wide with two seconds left.
Gilman got to most of the ground balls and never trailed in the first half. But the strong play in the cage from Newton kept the Dons close. After Roesner gave the Dons their 7-6 lead, Newton came up with a big save on Andrew Gemma's shot before Conrad provided the two-goal lead.
Loyola coach Jack Crawford has come to expect the fine play from Newton, who shined in last year's playoff run.
"Any time you have a team that has the kind of firepower that Gilman has, they're going to have chances and they did create good chances," Crawford said. "Acie is a kid who has a year under his belt and he has a year of big-time competition under his belt, and I don't think he's going to get flustered very easily at this point in his career.
"So, he was prepared to see some really good shots, and he did. They generated some great opportunities and he made some great saves."
Crawford also lauded the play of Smith, midfielder Will D'Angelo and defenseman Parker Sessions.
For Gilman, McBride finished with two goals and Andy Matthews had one goal and two assists. Coach Brooks Matthews found plenty of things to correct.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't throw the ball and pass the ball to each other like we normally do. I'm disappointed that we stood around offensively. I'm disappointed that we didn't talk to each other more and communicate," he said. "I just don't think we played the way we know how to play. It's one thing when you get beat — and we got beat — but we also didn't play the way we're capable of playing."
No. 6 Loyola 9, No. 4 Gilman 8
Goals: G – McBride 2, Ruhl, Wittich, Gemma, Matthews, WaxterWancowicz;
L – Conrad 2, Roesner 2, Jones 2, Lombardo, Smith, Chasney.
Assists: G – Matthews 2;
L – Conrad 5.
Saves: G – Shmerler 4;
L – Newton 10.
Half: G, 3-2