For the No. 5 Gilman soccer team, success comes down to intangibles.
The No. 5 Greyhounds (14-4-4) take on No. 2 Loyola (14-3-1) in Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game, and they are banking on all the little things adding up to the program's second league title in three years. Game time is set for 5:30 p.m. at Stevenson University in Owings Mills.
The Greyhounds like to frustrate opponents with tight marking, make sure to win most 50-50 balls in the middle, scratch across enough offense and put the team first.
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In defeating No. 1 Archbishop Curley, 2-1, in Thursday's semifinal, the Greyhounds relied on all those traits in the second half to pull off the upset.
With the team down, 1-0, and not getting forward much in the first 10 minutes into the second half, Riley DeSmit, a lacrosse standout set to play at Johns Hopkins, scored a magical goal when he fired a shot from 16 yards that found the top right corner to tie the game.
Minutes later, Sam Wancowicz, who moved up to the forward and assisted on DeSmit's goal, scored the game-winner and then moved back to defense to protect the advantage. Before the game-winning goal, midfielder Peter Brown, another scrappy lacrosse player, won a key ball in the middle to start the play.
"We have to do those things because we don't have the refined soccer players that play 12 months a year," Gilman coach Jon Seal said after Thursday's win. "So one of the things that we preach from Day 1 is the little things -- we have to do those things better than anyone else. [Thursday]. I thought you saw a group really come together, always believing that we could win the game. The fact that a guy like Peter Brown wins that ball in the middle of the field and starts everything -- it's a tribute to Peter, but it really demnstrates who we are as a team.'"
Loyola, which advanced to Sunday's final with a 2-0 win over Calvert Hall, comes with talent covering the entire field.
Senior forward Jeremy DeGraffenreidt is the team's primary offensive threat and his twin brother, Michael, is the area's finest defender. In the middle, the Dons have standouts in Tony Butta and Gavin Barger.
This season, the teams tied 3-3 in the first meeting at Loyola before the Dons were able to hang on for a 3-2 win at Gilman in the final week of the regular season.
"We're going to be the underdog -- there's no doubt about that. They have special players at each level," Seal said. "They present matchup problems for us and we're going to be at our very, very best."