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Baltimore County Sports

Defense shines as No. 11 Catonsville defeats Towson, 9-7, after a first-half shutout

Catonsville held Towson scoreless for the first half and held off a late rally for a 9-7 victory in boys lacrosse Tuesday night.

The win completes a perfect regular season for the No. 11 Comets (14-0).

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Brian Ruppel, one of 15 seniors honored before the game as part of senior night, was outstanding in goal during the first half where he made 10 of his 13 saves and the Comets built a 4-0 lead.

Ruppel praised his teammates for the defensive effort in the first half.

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“The first half our defense played phenomenal,” he said. “We know their guys, we scouted them pretty well and gave them low-angle shots and I was lucky enough to make the saves.”

Ruppel was in goal in the second game of the season when the Comets defeated Towson, 13-1, and the University of Maryland commit continued to frustrate the Generals.

“You’ve got to work for a good shot, you can’t score from the outside, he’s phenomenal,” Towson coach Pat O’Connor said. “In the second half, we got a lot of layups. I think the first game he was completely in our head and I think in the first half he probably was in our head, but we just had to break the ice, get that first goal and things would open up.”

Those defenders included Azbill (five ground balls), Jack Krug and sophomores Will Roberson and John Gorski.

“James Azbill, at close, is having one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen a high school close defenseman have,” Catonsville coach KR Schultz said.

Catonsville coach KR Schultz knew the key was containing Towson’s Ben Ellis and Will Derbyshire.

“The whole defense did a really good job of limiting two very good middies,” he said. “They are awesome and I thought we did a good job of taking away their strong hands and kind of like handling them.”

Catonsville jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes on a pair of goals by junior Eric Kaplan off of feeds from Johnny Bolster.

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Catonsville’s third goal of the opening half was set up by a great defensive play by attacker Byron Newman. The senior forced a turnover on Towson goalie Alex Hochrein and Jay Rualo scooped it up with 8:16 left in the second quarter.

“I thought the attackmen rode really, really well tonight. Defense is a team thing and I thought all of our guys were all in on realizing that we’ve got to play good defense, from the attackmen to the close guys,” Schultz said.

Rualo’s assist to Byron Newman made it 4-0 with 1:55 left in the first half. The Comets also killed off two penalties in the final four minutes with Ruppel’s foot save off a Will Kennedy shot being the toughest stop.

Rualo’s goal following a rebound made it 5-0 early in the second half before Towson finally dented the net on an unassisted tally by Leo Mileto with 7:31 left in the third quarter. Catonsville’s Newman bumped the lead to 6-1 just 22 seconds later, but Towson responded with a goal by Ellis.

Newman’s third goal of the night gave the Comets a 7-2 advantage with 2:50 left in the third quarter. Towson’s Mileto scored with 29 seconds left, but Bolster rebounded Rualo’s shot that was saved by Hochrein, and he deposited it, giving the Comets an 8-3 lead heading into the final quarter.

“I love our team for many, many reasons, one of them is how hard they work. They want to be great and they are down to doing the gritty plays,” Schultz said. “Our attackmen work their tail off and the effort is there.”

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Kaplan assisted Tyler Mikalaski 39 seconds into the final quarter and the lead was 9-3, but that was the last Catonsville tally.

Towson responded with two goals from Kennedy and one each from Mileto and Alex Tyler, but the last one came with 49 seconds left and Catonsville’s Nathan Wess won the next faceoff and the Comets ran out the clock.

“They were relentless, they kept their foot on the gas, all props to them,” Ruppel said. “They are a good team, a good program, we respect them a lot.”

Towson finished the regular season 8-4, but O’Connor was encouraged by the team’s improvement.

“We graduated 17 seniors last year and we lost by a goal in the state championship and we played these guys the second game of the season and we lost 13-1,” O’Connor said. “We are making progress, we have a lot of young people out there playing and I just feel good about the progress.”

Ruppel, who was in goal last year when the Comets lost in the state championship game, knows there is a lot of season left and he wasn’t emotional about senior night.

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“It’s a good way to end the season, going undefeated all season, but we’ve got a lot of work to do for the playoffs,” he said. “Coach said before as long as we take care of business, this isn’t our last home game. We are going to host throughout, hopefully and it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s a nice to be represented.”

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The seniors Catonsville honored before the game included James Azbill, Aidan Blair, Johnny Bolster, Elias Brown, Ethan Gutberlet, Andrew James, Jack Krug, Carson Lang, Frank Manalansan III, Tyler Mikalaski, James Montgomery, Byron Newman, Jay Rualo, Brian Ruppel and Josh Williams.

Goals: C-Byron Newman 3, Eric Kaplan 2, Jay Rualo 2, Tyler Mikalaski 1, Johnny Bolster 1; T-Leo Mileto 3, Will Kennedy 2, Ben Ellis 1, Alex Tyler 1.

Assists: C-Bolster 2, Kaplan 1, Rualo 1; T-Will Derbyshire 2, Mileto 1.

Saves: C-Brian Ruppel 13; T-Alex Hochrein 9

Halftime: C 4-0

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Catonsville JV wins thriller

Catonsville freshman Dylan Stevenson sat out the third and fourth quarter with a back injury, but he came back in overtime and scored the game-winning goal off an assist from Wade Davis as the Comets JV defeated Towson, 6-5.


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