The St. Mary's boys lacrosse team has established itself as one of the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference powers over the past decade, but Saints coach Jim Moorhead has always had to live with the fact that his team had never won the conference title.
That all changed last night at UMBC as the defense-minded and fifth-ranked Saints captured their first conference crown with a 5-1 upset of No. 1 Loyola.
"No one expected us to win this," said Moorhead. "No one expected us to beat St. Paul's and no one expected us to beat Loyola, but our coaching staff believed strongly that we had the capability of beating these guys and proving that we're No. 1.
"If I would have told someone before the game that we would hold Loyola to one goal they would have thought I was some kind of nut case. We thought we could score a little bit more but our team defense was just unbelievable. Mike Codd [the Saints defensive coordinator] had a great game plan organized and the kids executed perfectly. The whole team defense was just absolutely fantastic."
The Saints, who were turned away by St. Paul's in their first title game appearance back in 1991, opened the scoring at the 7:17 " mark of the first quarter when Matt Clune took a feed from senior midfielder Kevin Reichardt and delicately placed it past Loyola goalkeeper Greg Zorella (eight saves).
Senior attackman Jon Cusson answered 90 seconds later on an assist from Brian Zeller to tie the score at one. Little did the Dons know at the time but that was all the scoring they would get.
"I'm really scratching my head over this one," said Loyola coach Joe McFadden, whose team had defeated the Saints, 12-8, early the season. "We scouted them and knew they would slow it down but we didn't think it would be to this degree. They were willing to just go around, and around and around and it's not our style but it was effective for them."
St. Mary's (12-5), which advanced to the finals by upsetting No. 2 St. Paul's, 8-7, scored what proved to be the winning goal with 1:19 left in the first quarter on an unassisted goal by Reichardt. Clune added another on a feed from sophomore attackman Dan Collins with 28 seconds left to give the Saints a 3-1 advantage.
Following a scoreless second quarter that featured several fearless saves by Saints goalkeeper Jim Brown (11 saves) and some fine long stick work by senior defenseman Steve Shummer, St. Mary's got an insurance goal in third quarter when Todd Vizcarrondo found the net on a pass from Kevin Gattie. Vizcarrondo closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter on an assist from Collins.
"This is what it's all about," said Clune, who finished with two goals. "This is what we worked hard for and it feels great."