Resembling a middle schooler behind his mask and pads, Loyola's diminutive goalie, Trae Rodgers, came up huge yesterday against the No. 2 St. Paul's lacrosse team.
The 5-foot-6, 120-pound Rodgers stopped 23 shots and allowed one extra-man goal in four man-down situations, leading the No. 3 Dons to an 8-5 win in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference action at St. Paul's.
After the game, Rodgers was carried among fans who cheered Loyola's seventh straight victory.
"Looking at me, you don't see much," Rodgers said. "But I like proving that my size doesn't matter."
Rodgers, who missed most of last season with a spinal injury, had 10 fourth-period saves when the Dons were outshot, 14-2.
Loyola's Phil Grillo, up from last spring's junior varsity, had a game-high two goals and two assists, but it was Rodgers, 6-foot-3, 215-pounder Ricky Schultz and fellow defenders Mike McKenna, Brad Wright, Tim Sullivan and Matt Pinto who continually disrupted the offensive flow of the Crusaders (4-2, 4-2).
"Their goalie played with confidence, like our shots were big as beach balls," said Jack deVilliers, who combined with Ethan Haire to win 11 of 15 faceoffs for St. Paul's. "They put Ricky in the middle of everything, stopped our fast break."
Loyola (7-1, 5-1) led 2-0 with 9: 56 left in the first period on consecutive unassisted goals by Mike Alfone and Mike McNamara. Haire's score made it 2-1 before Grillo stole the show, offensively.
Grillo assisted Devin Weatherly for a 3-1 lead entering the second period, then took a pass from Owen Mulford for a three-goal cushion with 10: 24 left in the half. It was 5-3 after Grillo picked off a pass and fed a goal-bound Ryan Tolson, but the Crusaders' Sean Link made it 5-4 two seconds before halftime.
Miller gave the Dons a 6-4 lead 17 seconds into the second half, after which Grillo scooped a loose ball, raced in, and bounced in a shot off the stick of keeper Paul Spellman (eight saves) for a 7-4 lead 7: 04 before the fourth period.
Schultz had seven take-aways, five running clears, a shot on goal and a clear that led to a goal. He also alternated marking assignments, limiting playmakers Brendan Gill (two assists) and Conor Ford (two goals).
Schultz shut down Ford after Ford's two unassisted goals brought St. Paul's within 4-3 late in the second period. Later, a clear by Schultz led to an 8-5 lead with 2: 57 left as Brian Miller fed Andy White.
But all Schultz could talk about was Rodgers.
"It's so cool that we didn't know who our goalie was going to be during preseason scrimmages until Trae won the spot," Schultz said. "Now we have probably the league's smallest goalie playing like he's one of the best."