Glenelg boys lacrosse beat Northeast-AA to win the 3A/2A South regional title on Wednesday, May 17.
At times last year, Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker thought his team was drowning in expectations. Having fun was few and far between and the disappointing losses mounted, culminating with a first-round playoff defeat and a 6-9 record.
This year's team didn't have the same expectations; not with so many underclassmen in key roles. The talented yet "goofy" group, as Hatmaker calls them, was probably a year away from bringing the Gladiators, state champions in 2007, 2008 and 2011, back to statewide relevance.
"It's tough because we hear about the legacy of Glenelg and how much we have to live up to. When we don't live up to those expectations we feel like we've let coach Hatmaker down," said Glenelg senior captain and goalie Brian Doughty. "So when we get to this spot, we know he's proud of us and we're proud of him for getting us here."
It's safe to say the Gladiators are ahead of schedule after they scored the final seven goals in Wednesday's 3A/2A South regional championship game and held host Northeast scoreless in the final 43 minutes, 34 seconds to win their ninth straight overall with a 9-3 victory.
It's the program's 14th regional title and first since winning eight straight from 2007 to 2014.
"The coaches have been around a long time and we've seen it and kind of understand what it takes. For these guys — they have great senior leadership and to be so young — it's just incredibly important," Hatmaker said. "They're starting to see that it takes a whole season; it's not just the first six or eight games. We've really been putting together a nice little streak here and we'd like it to continue."
The first five minutes looked like a track meet. The Eagles (11-7) scored on their first two shots and on three of their first four while the Gladiators (12-6) buried their first three attempts. Northeast's Brennan McConnell scored two of those goals, the last coming with 7:34 remaining in the first quarter, but didn't find the back of the net again after Hatmaker put a long-pole defender on him.
Doughty, meanwhile, made his first save with less than six minutes to go and stopped every shot on his cage from then on to finish with 15 saves.
"The last game against Marriotts Ridge, we were down four in the opening quarter. I see our offense and them starting to click and get going, and it gets me going too," Doughty said. "I started seeing the ball better and starting pumping up the defense and that got us going on a run."
Hatmaker called Doughty the leader of the defense and said he is one of the smartest goalies he's coached at Glenelg, "in terms of understanding where shots are going to come from and where he needs to position himself, the film study, all those things."
Eagles coach Walt Blahut said his team started pressing after Eric Gruber's goal gave the Gladiators their first lead at 4-3 with 3:50 left in the first quarter.
"They gained a lot of confidence after they scored their fourth goal and we had a lot of turnovers," he said. "... We starting taking some shots and playing uncharacteristic offense, but the thing was their defense. They slid well, they slid quickly and filled in from the backside and it was well planned. We couldn't find the open man and we got a little selfish because we didn't spin the ball as we normally do."
Highlights from Glenelg's 11-3 win over Manchester Valley in a boys lacrosse tournament on Saturday, April 15, 2017. (Tim Schwartz/Baltimore Sun video)
Glenelg sophomore Tyler Reiff (three goals, assist) scored his second goal three minutes into the second quarter to extend the lead to 6-3 and Michael Doughty's goal four minutes later made it 7-3.
Neither team scored in the third quarter and Doughty stopped all five Eagles shots in the frame. Twice Doughty made saves in the fourth that had Northeast attckmen raising their arms above their heads, frustrated that nothing would get past him.
Tyler Nalls and Reiff put the game out of reach with tallies in the fourth for the Gladiators.
"We played them tough. They ran a little zone and when we're up by four goals we're not going to press," Hatmaker said. "We took the looks when they were there and didn't jam the ball in there when it wasn't 100 percent perfect."
Glenelg will face defending state champions Linganore in a state semifinal game at Mt. Hebron either Friday or Saturday. The Lancers beat Mt. Hebron, 9-7, in last year's final.
Glenelg (12-6) — 9, Northeast-AA (11-7) — 3
Goals: G — Tyler Reiff 3, Tyler Nalls, Jordan Nalls, Ryan Hopkins, Michael Doughty, Eric Gruber, Michael Lyons; N — Brennan McConnell 2, Seth Camphouse
Assists: G — Reiff, M. Doughty, Justin Silk; N — None
Saves: G — Brian Doughty 15; N — Patrick Martinek 9