HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Northern-Calvert put southern Maryland lacrosse on the map last year by becoming first school in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference to win a state championship, and it did so by beating one of the state public school powerhouses in Glenelg.
Coach Joe Casalino admitted after Friday’s 3A state semifinal game against another tradition-rich team in Centennial that his team may have been a year early in their development toward becoming a program that routinely battles for state titles. They looked the part early on and their trip to a second-straight final looked to be in the bag after a 5-0 run in the first half and six goals from Abe Hubbard.
But the Eagles defined resiliency in the second half, as they cut the lead to three four times in the third quarter before scoring twice more in the fourth to trim the Patriots’ lead to one. Alex Sheehan wasn’t tested often but the sophomore goalie made two one-on-one saves in the final two minutes and Northern-Calvert held on to beat Centennial, 12-11, to advance to the 3A state championship game one year after winning the 3A/2A state title.
The Patriots (18-1) will play either Towson or Westminster in the final at Stevenson University May 22-24.
“We’ve really been pushing this group for a long time. I’ve had them since they were seventh graders,” Casalino said. “So our eyes have always been on this group and how special they could be. ... I feel great for these guys. They work so hard in a conference that doesn’t have a lot of competition and they have to fight themselves to maintain their focus and their discipline.”
Centennial (12-6) scored two of the game’s first three goals before Hubbard caught fire. He scored four of the Patriots’ goals in their run between the first and second quarters and six of their first seven overall, and the lead ballooned to 8-3 after Brandon Sulhoff found the back of the net after assisting on four tallies already.
“Abe is a pure shooter,” Caslalino said. “You give him some time and room and he’ll hurt you. When we’re moving the ball like that, we’re really tough.”
But Northern-Calvert’s focus and discipline was put to the test from there on out. Centennial’s Thomas Thurmond netted his third goal in the final minute of the first half, and after Northern-Calvert answered with a goal, another Eagles goal from defender Stafford Smith trimmed the deficit to 9-5 at halftime.
Centennial coach Nick Kellinger told his team during the break to worry less about getting defensive personnel on and worry more about getting holds and stopping transition. The change caused the Patriots to get sloppy with the ball and the momentum the Eagles gained late in the first half carried into the second. They fired nine shots in the first seven minutes after the break, although Northern-Calvert never let the advantage slip too far away and led, 12-9, heading into the final frame.
Centennial dominated the fourth quarter and outshot the Patriots, 9-1. Peter Krawczyk’s second goal with 10:10 remaining made it 12-10, and the Eagles sideline erupted when Jeremy Wilson perfectly placed his shot across goal and into the top-left corner to cut the deficit to 12-11 with 7:43 left.
“I didn’t sense panic but I sensed concern,” Casalino said, “but also the focus, the understanding that we had a job to do, we’re still winning the game and we just need to finish this thing out. The attitude was right and having gone through those battles last year and been in a one-goal game in the state championship game really helped us tonight.”
Centennial had several opportunities in the waning minutes, but Sheehan stopped the two best chances by Wilson and Krawczyk. It ultimately came up just short of reaching the final for the time since 2009.
“We always believed,” Kellinger said. “We have a lot of belief in this group and a lot of pride in what we do. We’ve worked really hard and our goal today was to deserve to win, and I think we played well enough to deserve to win, but so did Northern. They earned it. ... When you play as a team and you play together you can do anything. We just came up a little short.”
Northern-Calvert (18-1) — 12, Centennial (12-6) — 11
Goals: NC — Abe Hubbard 6, Mason Chaney 3, JJ King 2, Brandon Sulhoff; C — Thomas Thurmond 3, Jeremy Wilson 3, Peter Krawczyk 2, Stafford Smith, Charlie Hockersmith, Michael Pellrigrini
Assists: NC — Sulhoff 5, Matt Holland 4, Brock Daniel; C — Wilson 3, Ty Sams
Saves: NC — Alex Sheehan 5; C — Jack Schlossberg 11
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Halftime: 9-5, Northern-Calvert