In the competitive MIAA A lacrosse conference, it’s all about league play

Calvert Hall senior lacrosse star Brendan Curry knows he won't get much sleep on Monday night.

The same goes for St. Paul's coach Rick Brocato.

And on Tuesday, Boys' Latin coach Brian Farrell will try to stick to his usual routine on game day, which starts with the same breakfast at Pepe's Pizza on Falls Road and he hopes ends with a win.

But it won't be easy.

For teams in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, which has long been the best and most competitive in the country, Tuesday marks the true start of the lacrosse season. It's the start of league play with five games in the Baltimore area.

"It's the real season," said Brocato, in his 17th and final season at St. Paul's. "I always tell my guys the out-of-league games are important to help find our identity. But in terms of what matters, it's league play that really gets your blood boiling and the competitive juices flowing. There's no doubt about it: It's 'Go time' and it just doesn't get any better."

Over the next five weeks, every Tuesday and Friday, and an occasional Saturday, will be highly anticipated with No. 1 McDonogh coming in as the defending league champion. The games bring high skills, intensity, passion and rivalries that can't be matched elsewhere.

Tuesday's opening day has taken on even more importance since 2012, when the MIAA reduced its league games to nine from 13. 

"It's definitely a higher level of excitement that you definitely look forward to. Every game matters from a playoff seeding standpoint, and the league is so great that every game is a dogfight," Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly said.

"From a coaching standpoint, every win is like a relief. And sometimes when you come out and don't play well and put yourself against the wall, it makes the next game that much harder."

Kelly and Curry were talking the other day about how different practice has become leading up to Tuesday, when the No. 3 Cardinals open with a visit to No. 9 Gilman.

"You can just see it," Curry, a four-year varsity player and captain, said on Thursday. "The coaches and players were more focused. It's a much better atmosphere and it's easier to get up for a practice when you know you're preparing for someone you want to beat so bad."

For the rest of the year, that "someone" is often a summer club teammate, a grade-school classmate, a friend that hangs out on weekends, or even a future college teammate.

On Tuesdays and Fridays in April and May, though, they are the opponent on the other side wearing a rival uniform. And they want to win just as much.

"That's the other dynamic that makes the league so unique — we all know the coaches and kids," Brocato said. "So when we're talking to the kids about [an opponent's uniform] number — I know they're thinking that's my buddy I see on the weekends or play club ball with. So I think that makes it even more competitive because they want to have those bragging rights over their friends."

When Tuesday arrives, there will be an extra buzz in the hallways; the players will do their best to pay attention in class, which is just about impossible; and then, finally, game time will arrive and the stands will fill up. Those who have played and coached can attest to a different vibe.  

Opening whistles will blow on five fields and the grind begins.

"It's a correlation of all the hard work you put in starting from the season ending last year," Farrell said.

"And it all comes down to the 18th of April — which is the big one. There's no other way to describe it but exciting. I think the beauty behind this whole thing is that, at the end of the day, it's the greatest conference in the country for a reason and that's because these guys are some of the best players in the country."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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Tuesday's schedule

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference begins league play in lacrosse on Tuesday. Here's a look at the opening day schedule:

No. 4 Severn at No. 2 Boys' Latin, 4 p.m.

No. 6 Loyola Blakefield at No. 5 St. Paul's, 4:15 p.m.

No. 3 Calvert Hall at No. 9 Gilman, 4:15 p.m.

Mount Saint Joseph at No. 1 McDonogh, 4:30 p.m.

No. 12 Archbishop Spalding at No. 8 St. Mary's, 6 p.m.

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