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MadLax avenges last year’s loss, down Annapolis Hawks in Naptown National Challenge lacrosse tournament final

Madlax Nationals teammates celebrate their win over the Annapolis Hawks during a Naptown Challenge lacrosse tournament game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Tuesday, August 5.
Madlax Nationals teammates celebrate their win over the Annapolis Hawks during a Naptown Challenge lacrosse tournament game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Tuesday, August 5. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Annapolis Hawks goalie Kasey Heath had a full plate before too long.

MadLax players hammered his goal, a pesky cloud of thirsty mosquitoes buzzing by the cage. Heath (Kent Island) battered away a few shots, but it wouldn’t hold.

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The club team boasting much of its roster from Washington, D.C. private schools and Virginia’s dominant, high-possession performance in the first half and consistency in the latter assured a 10-9 victory in the championship game of the Naptown National Challenge, avenging their title from a year before.

MadLax attack Caulley Derringer, Jr. put away four goals while Hawks attack Jacob Todd (Severn School) also scored four goals.

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The tournament had been abbreviated by Tropical Storm Isaias from three days to two, but that hadn’t slowed the path of MadLax, who had edged out a squad from Texas to be at Navy-Marine Cirps Stadium on Wednesday.

“Losses are always hard,” said Annapolis Hawks 2023 coach Matt Torggler, “whether they’re by one goal or 10.”

The Hawks and MadLax have seen plenty of each other in recent years, and weeks. When these two rivals met two weeks ago, at another tournament, the tables had turned ― the two were tied in the fourth quarter, and the Hawks had scored off their momentum while MadLax waned.

“Lacrosse, like most sports, is a game of momentum,. The guys did not let down at all. This is our 11th game in three days,” Torggler said. “We were in back-to-back tournaments because of the whole COVID thing, its been challenging for organizers to get programs off the ground. There’s a short window for us this year. It’s been tough on then kids and the organizations.”

The Hawks, on the other hand, had shown none of the same ferocity that comes with creaming a team like Next Level 2023 by eight goals, as they had the other day.

First, Derringer, Jr. swung a pass to Matthew Han, who netted the first goal.

Then, just four seconds into resumption of play, a figure approached the net -- Colin Burns, an attack who began his high school career at Georgetown Prep this spring until his season was cut short. The rising sophomore better known as “BBQ” struck to take a 2-0 lead.

Finally, the Annapolis Hawks were able to roll action downfield, to give MadLax’s defense a taste of work, and it did pay off as Todd stung the net.

But like the tropical storm that rolled through Annapolis on Tuesday, MadLax was prepared for a heavy downpour.

First, Derringer found the back of the net before the end of the first quarter, upping the score to 3-1. Then, less than two minutes into the second, MadLax midfielder Larry Horning sniped Heath, potting two goals; on the second, the rising sophomore acted like his own army, scoring just moments after play resumed, before much of both teams had even caught up to him on the field.

At that point, the Hawks had found themselves sunk in a sandpit. No matter how much they swung, they couldn’t find their way out. Several Annapolis Hawks shots bounced off MadLax keeper Declan Monahan (Gonzaga).

Until, that is, they found the path.

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Annapolis Hawks midfielder Aaron Clouthier celebrates a fourth quarter score against the Madlax Nationals during a Naptown Challenge lacrosse tournament game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Tuesday, August 5.
Annapolis Hawks midfielder Aaron Clouthier celebrates a fourth quarter score against the Madlax Nationals during a Naptown Challenge lacrosse tournament game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Tuesday, August 5. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

After a brief timeout, the Hawks found their leg up in not one, not two, but three St. Mary’s budding products. Gavin Burlace found Ty Ruland in the fray, and the midfielders made the matter 5-2, and then, after Han replied with a goal for MadLax, Sean Berzins whipped in one last shot to score, just before halftime.

Out of the break, the Hawks moved with an intensity not seen in the first half. They won face-offs. They took quicker shots.

And, of course, they scored goals.

Hawks midfielder Andy Smith buried his shot first, and then Nickolas Sotiropoulos-Lawrence of Severn, all within two minutes of the third quarter ― and just like that, the margin was just one goal.

Todd, Sotiropoulos-Lawrence’s Severn teammate, finished the job, depositing the knotting goal at the seven-minute mark, 6-6.

“Face-offs definitely made an impact, but we were able to do better in the second half. We were able to pull back ‘cause our face-off guy was winning the ball,” Todd said.

And yet, by the end of the quarter, that fire had died down.

Tommy Arata began the extinguishing with a goal, which Derringer followed up with another two, and by the horn, the Hawks were right back where they’d started the third ― three goals behind.

Derringer began the fourth quarter exactly the same way, potting his fourth of the afternoon. But on the Hawks’ side, Todd had his own goals to achieve.

The rising sophomore hummed his way around the cage and put his third and fourth goals away, narrowing the gap to 10-8.

“When’s he’s on, it’s really hard to stop him,” Torggler said.

It would take a talent from outside Maryland to shave the margin even more, as Aaron Clouthier drove in the ninth Hawks goal with less than five minutes to go.

It wouldn’t be enough. The Hawks’ second-half pattern of three-goal spurts had expired on that last one, and the MadLax defense found the wherewithal to withstand whatever the Hawks tried from then on.

“The kids showed a lot of heart. We started grabbing possession of the ball. If you don’t have the ball, like the first half, it’s hard to score. they put a lot of pressure on our defense. That’s the most goals we’ve given up in three years,” Torggler said.

“Onto next year.”

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