The rain diminished their practice time. Shaky scrimmages diminished their confidence. And a double-overtime nail-biter on Tuesday threatened their hopes for the boys lacrosse season, before escaping with a one-goal victory.
But in their first appearance on a dry field in several weeks, the top-ranked St. Paul's Crusaders yesterday found the perfect anecdote for the early-season blues -- Severn.
The host Crusaders manhandled the 14th-ranked Admirals from start to finish, scoring 20 unanswered goals and rolling to a 21-3 Maryland Scholastic Association Armstrong Conference A Division win.
"The last couple times we've been out we haven't been doing as well as we can," said attackman Michael Watson. "We didn't doubt ourselves, but we knew we could play better. Right from the start today, everything just gelled, and it never stopped. This gives us a lot of confidence to know we can still do it."
The win extended the Crusaders' area-best winning streak to 27 games and gave the two-time defending MSA A Conference champions an early foothold on first place in their division.
But beating up on a Severn team that scored a dominating win in Tuesday's opener against Friends came as a total surprise for St. Paul's. The Crusaders outshot the Admirals, 40-20, including 35-11 through three quarters.
"I think we just had them outmanned," said St. Paul's coach Mitch Whiteley. "They have some very good ballplayers -- just not enough of them."
That was evident early. St. Paul's (2-0 overall and in the division) came out firing, beating defenders and taking five shots on goal in the first 3:44. Billy Ruhl put the Crusaders on the scoreboard, scoring off a pass from John Solter from in front 1:32 into the game.
That opened the floodgates, as they scored three more goals in the next 1:34 to take a 4-0 lead with 3:18 left in the quarter, and never looked back.
St. Paul's led, 20-0 with 5:35 to play before Joe Feldman finally put the Admirals (1-1, 0-1) on the board.
Watson led the attack with four goals and four assists, Tucker Radebaugh had two goals and six assists and Ruhl, Brad Read, Todd Lowe and Ben Strutt added two goals each.
The other story for St. Paul's was its dominating defense. Led by starters Patrick Doyle, Mac McCulloch and Ryan Grimes, the defense rarely let Severn drive in for a shot, and many of those taken were blocked before reaching the goal.
In just their second game of the season, the Crusaders seemed to regain their championship form of the past two years.
"We're getting better," said Whiteley. "Maybe now that all the bad weather is behind us we can start putting our game together."