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Catonsville boys lacrosse squad eager to get back on the field after close playoff loss in 2019

Catonsville's Jacob Diluca shoots in a 7-6 win over Dulaney in the first half of a 2019 second round regional playoff game. Diluca returns for his senior year this spring.
Catonsville's Jacob Diluca shoots in a 7-6 win over Dulaney in the first half of a 2019 second round regional playoff game. Diluca returns for his senior year this spring. (Steve Ruark / For Baltimore Sun Media)

The last time the Catonsville boys lacrosse team played a meaningful game was in the spring of 2019 when the Comets lost a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to Howard in the regional semifinals.

The Comets had defeated Dulaney, 7-6, in the previous playoff game and coach KR Schultz was extremely optimistic about a 2020 team that would have included his entire defense back on the field and Brian Ruppel back to his natural position of goalie after playing midfield as a freshman.

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Ruppel never got a chance to play with the veteran defense but the goalie, who committed to play lacrosse at the University of Maryland in 2023, will return between the pipes this season with several players from that 2019 team along with some newcomers.

Junior James Azbill, who will play at Towson University in 2023, is the veteran of the defense where the long-stick close defender will be joined by fourth-year seniors Jakob Wilkens, Mark Gordon and Jack Krug in defensive roles.

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Schultz sees more help on the defensive horizon.

“We have four freshmen poles who are very good,” Schultz said. “I have no idea where they will fit in yet, but they are very, very talented young guys. They are kind of the next wave.”

Elias Brown, a transfer from Mount St. Joe, and Adrian Cummings, who moves over from the gridiron, could also help the defense.

“We graduated so many defensemen in 2020 that Azbill has done a really good job leading the younger guys,” Schultz said.

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The senior long poles who graduated in 2020 included Gunnar Cheuvront (Loyola University Maryland) John Sanick, Wyatt Gentner and Evan Rogers.

Catonsville junior defenseman James Azbill practices during the pre-season. Azbill, who will play at Towson University, is the leader of the defense.
Catonsville junior defenseman James Azbill practices during the pre-season. Azbill, who will play at Towson University, is the leader of the defense. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

The midfield boasts senior Jacob Diluca and junior Johnny Bolster.

“I’m a colossal Johnny Bolster fan,” Schultz said. “He played great as a freshman when he played attack.”

Diluca, who was the starting quarterback for the football team, is in his fourth season in the program.

“He’s been great for us over the years,” Schultz said.

Junior midfielder Tyler Mikalaski is another smart addition to the midfield.

“He has looked great coming out of the break,” Schultz said. “He’s a kid who worked his tail off during the break.”

Sophomore Nate Wess will pick up where his brother TJ left off handling faceoffs.

Junior Frank Manalansan was on that 2019 team, but he didn’t get a ton of playing time.

“He worked his tail off in the offseason while no one was watching,” Schultz said.

Byron Newman, a transfer from St. Paul’s and Eric Kaplan, a transfer from Howard, join the offensive mix along with senior Drew Abendschoen.

“We have a lot of bodies on the offensive end and not as many on the defensive end,” said Schulz, whose 7-9 2019 team had some scoring woes. “We are hoping to score more goals then we have in the past.”

The determined attitude of the players who were in the program in 2019 have Schultz excited for the future.

Catonsville junior goalkeeper Brian Ruppel practices for the Comets, who open the season on May 11 at home against Perry Hall. Ruppel will play at the University of Maryland after high school.
Catonsville junior goalkeeper Brian Ruppel practices for the Comets, who open the season on May 11 at home against Perry Hall. Ruppel will play at the University of Maryland after high school. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

“They are hungry because they had opportunities to play this summer and fall, but it wasn’t with each other, it was with club teams,” Schultz said. “Being together, representing their community, representing Catonsville, being back on the turf field and getting after it is a lot of fun. They are competitive dudes. They are confident guys so we hope we can work hard enough to earn some wins.”

Catonsville opens its season with home games against Perry Hall on May 11 (4 p.m.) and Sparrows Point on May 13 (5:15 p.m.).

They play at Dulaney on May 18 (5:15 p.m.) and at Towson on May 20 (5:15 p.m.) before returning home the following week against Hereford on May 24 (5:15 p.m.) and against Franklin on May 26 (5:15 p.m.).

The Comets conclude the regular season at Eastern Tech on June 1 (4 p.m.) and at Perry Hall on June 3 (4 p.m.).

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