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Catonsville junior goalie Ruppel orally commits to play lacrosse at Maryland

Catonsville High junior goalie Brian Ruppel orally committed to play college lacrosse at the University of Maryland.
Catonsville High junior goalie Brian Ruppel orally committed to play college lacrosse at the University of Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

It wasn’t hard for Catonsville High junior goalie Brian Ruppel to choose the University of Maryland as the place he wanted to spend his collegiate lacrosse career.

After growing up as a fan of the school’s athletic programs, Ruppel verbally committed to the College Park school on the eve of Labor Day.

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“I’ve been a huge Maryland fan ever since I was a little kid, like half my room is painted red for Maryland,” said Ruppel, who also received interest from Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Villanova, Ohio State and Penn State. “It’s definitely really cool, kind of a dream come true.”

The dream was cemented in reality when he got a message from Maryland lacrosse coach John Tillman.

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“Coach Tillman texted me the next morning and said, ‘You woke up a Terp today,’ and I was like, 'Wow, it’s crazy, my entire life watching you guys play and now I’m one of the guys.”

Ruppel took a prospect day visit to the campus last fall and met Tillman and some of the staff while he toured the facility.

Coaches were allowed to contact juniors on Sept. 1 and the call from Maryland was the one he eagerly anticipated.

“When he called me on Sept. 1, I could just tell how interested he was in me and how much he really wanted me to come to Maryland and how much the school was really interested,” Ruppel said.

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Ruppel, who also plays varsity soccer and basketball, barely got in the goal during his first two lacrosse seasons for Catonsville High.

As a freshman, he was the Comets' second leading scorer (25 goals, 6 assists) as a midfielder.

Catonsville High's Brian Ruppel, third from left, scored against Dulaney as a freshman midfielder in the Comets' 7-6 regional playoff win in 2019. He orally committed to play lacrosse as a goalie at the University of Maryland after he graduates from Catonsville.
Catonsville High's Brian Ruppel, third from left, scored against Dulaney as a freshman midfielder in the Comets' 7-6 regional playoff win in 2019. He orally committed to play lacrosse as a goalie at the University of Maryland after he graduates from Catonsville. (Steve Ruark / For Baltimore Sun Media)

He played sparingly in goal against Sparrows Point and Pikesville, but he made a critical save in the Comets' 4-3 loss to Howard in the regional semifinals.

Coach KR Schultz moved Ruppel to goalie with 48 seconds left in the game with the intent of having him chase the ball, but he ended up making a save and clearing it to set up a chance for a possible game-tying goal.

“He’s a competitive kid who is willing to do whatever it takes for the team,” Schultz said. “He stepped up and played midfield. I think it helped because he showed that he is versatile and that he really understands the game and not a lot of goalies have that experience and that’s one of the things that sets him apart.”

The 6-foot, 150-pound Ruppel was eager to get the 2020 season going and was slated for goalie duty when the coronavirus pandemic hit and cancelled school and sports before the regular season started.

He didn’t hesitate to get back on the field as soon as possible.

“Once it started to open back up, I had a lot of workouts with my goalie coach and once we got back out in the summer it was kind of go time and I knew I had to prove myself, especially being from a smaller school, not a MIAA school,” he said. “I had a lot to prove and a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.”

He worked under Andrew Gvozden and his brother Mike at Goaliesmith, a nationwide training source for goalies and goalie coaches, and they trained at Coppermine Fieldhouse in Cross Keys.

“Brian’s consistency and his mental game and how he approaches the game is what sets him apart,” Andrew Gvosden said. “He really does a great job of staying composed under pressure.”

At Goaliesmith, they ramped up the pressure by bringing in top collegiate shooters, including Maryland senior Logan Wisnauskas, who had a team-high 36 points (24 goals, 12 assists) for the 5-1 Terps in the spring of 2020 before the season ended because of COVID-19.

“It was like the best shooters and you were getting better and better every day,” said Ruppel, who admitted the Terrapin’s first salvos were an eye opener. “The first couple times I was a little shell-shocked, but it definitely made my game a lot better.”

“You talk to Logan Wisnauskas and he will tell you that Brian is one of the hardest goalies he’s ever had to shoot on,” Gvosden said. “That’s high praise coming from a guy who can score at will.”

Ruppel really boosted his stock when he played in the Junior Open for 2022 graduates in Tennessee in early July.

There were 144 players selected to play by invitation from all over the country.

“That’s what kind of put me on the map, I guess I would say,” he said. “It all got filmed and sent to coaches, so I think that was the first big step for me and then just kind of going into summer with my club team and continuing that, I think really helped.”

Ruppel got noticed over the summer by Inside Lacrosse and was selected as one of 22 five-star prospects for the class of 2022.

He played in three tournaments for the Maryland Roughriders with four other Catonsville residents, including Comet teammates James Azbil, Chris Huppmann and Johnny Bolster. Also on the team are Ryan Auman and Byron Newman of St. Paul’s, and Loyola Blakefield’s David Welsh.

His versatility, poise and uncanny clearing ability continued to stand out and he got noticed even more.

“Not only can he get away from any pressure, but he is smooth on the run with his throws and he knows where to look,” Gvosden said. “It’s really something that we haven’t had to spend a lot of time working on because he’s already dialed in and he showed that this summer against great competition.”

Catonsville coach Schultz and Ruppel agree that playing midfield helped improve his clears.

“He’s really good at clearing because he understands where midfielders want that pass to be,” Schultz said. “He commands his defense and he knows what the defensive middies are going through and stuff like that.”

Ruppel sets up his clears with his saves and ability to control the ball.

“Being a goalie, you think kind of one step ahead, like I might be giving up a little of the cage, but I know I can get there quick enough and it looks pretty promising to the shooter, but I know I can get there fast enough to make the save,” he said. “It definitely is a mind game, but mostly my clear game, I think it definitely helped a lot.”

Before getting to Maryland, Ruppel will continue to work out with Goaliesmith.

“We are fortunate that we’ve got Brian for another two years and can get him prepared for Maryland,” Gvosden said.

Should high school lacrosse return in the second semester, Schultz is looking forward to putting him at his natural position.

“This is pretty exciting because he still has two more years at Catonsville and we are really pumped about the next two years,” Schultz said. “We return a bunch of guys and I know he’s excited to finally get back at it and our 2021 and 2022 classes are both really big classes.”

Ruppel knows he will be ready.

“I’ve still got a couple years to get under my belt with the Comets and hopefully we can do some cool stuff there and get back out on the field and I’m really excited about that,” he said.

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