Boys' Latin is the area's No. 1-ranked lacrosse team, with two returning All-Metro players -- one of whom, Greg Patchak, was The Sun's 1996 Baltimore City/County Player of the Year.
But No. 3 Gilman is the hottest team in Baltimore, and the biggest surprise in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's A Conference -- the nation's toughest high school league.
Ranked No. 5 in the preseason, the Greyhounds (5-0) already have toppled No. 5 St. Paul's -- a team that later handled preseason No. 3 Calvert Hall -- No. 4 Loyola and No. 2 St. Mary's, winner of last year's MIAA A Conference crown with a 17-0 record.
Gilman routed St. Mary's, 14-7.
"I knew we could be good, but I never thought we'd be this good, this fast," said second-team All-Metro midfielder Keith Baker, one of four seniors to start againsts Loyola. "As a senior, I want to spread the ball around in the offense. That's my job, primarily. There's so much talent on our attack, but they're just underclassmen. I try to keep everyone involved."
In Thursday's victory over Loyola, freshman Ryan Boyle scored five goals, sophomore Jesse Kohler had a goal and four assists, and junior Alex Lieske had three goals. Defensively, sophomore Damien Davis and junior Will Brassell teamed with senior Jay Sullivan to halt five of six extra-man opportunities.
Though it appears, statistically, that the Greyhounds are doing most of the damage with underclassmen, coach John Tucker has relied heavily on Baker, senior midfielder Brandon Cornes, and senior keeper Brian Nottingham.
"Coming in, we knew we had tremendous senior leadership, and not just among the starters. In the goal, we've got two seniors battling it out, but they're a great example of the team's unselfishness," Tucker said. "Danny Mooney played against St. Paul's, but Nottingham's played our last two league games against St. Mary's and Loyola. But when the game's over, they've been the first ones to congratulate each other for a great game."
Against Loyola, Tucker said, Baker and Cornes showed that it's when the Greyhounds are struggling that they shine the brightest.
Gilman was tied at 1-1 with the Dons after falling behind 1-0 two minutes into the game, and had been outshot, 12-6. But with nine second left in the first period, Baker fed Cornes for a goal from point-blank range.
The underclassmen followed with the next goal, as Kohler, standing out to the left of Loyola goalie Pat McGinnis, found Lieske streaking toward the crease for a 3-1 lead with 9: 37 left in the half.
Later, holding a shaky 3-2 lead, Baker sparked his team again. His spinning move, starting from 10 yards behind the goal, gained a step on a defender and got him within stick's length of McGinnis, where he stuffed it past the keeper's right side. Off the faceoff 20 seconds later, Kohler found Boyle on the doorstep for another dunk.
"Boys' Latin is a stronger team, physically, than Gilman, and yet Gilman had more success moving the ball around against us. They're a very heady team," said coach Joe McFadden, whose Dons lost to Boys' Latin, 6-3. "We made numerous mistakes, defensively, not backing up the first slide with a second slide, and Gilman capitalized on all of them. They recognize situations, and do a good job of cutting and moving without the ball."
Last year's Greyhounds came off a season in which they won their second straight MIAA A Conference crown, but their accomplishments became a backdrop to St. Mary's incredible run.
Cornes, a member of the second midfield on the Greyhounds' last championship team, would love nothing better than to go out a winner. He would be following in the footsteps of older brother Mark, a 1994 All-Metro Player of the Year who played on a championship team as a St. Paul's sophomore before transferring to Gilman.
"Winning the title was the greatest experience of my life," said Cornes who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the 15-14 victory over St. Paul's.
"We wondered, after last year, if we still knew how to win," Cornes added. "We got a gut-check against St. Paul's, and won two big games after that. This team's unity is incredible. It's as fun to watch as it is to play."
Pub Date: 4/06/97