St. Mary’s boys lacrosse coach Victor Lilly would have preferred to play his team’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal at Pascal Field off Bestgate Road. After all, that is where the Saints have played their home games for years.
However, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium off Rowe Boulevard provided just as much of a home field advantage for the Saints. A large contingent of supporters, many clad in tie dye shirts with St. Mary’s Lacrosse printed on the back, gave the Annapolis program a huge lift on Tuesday night.
Junior attackman Jake Adams sparked a sharp offense, while senior long stick midfielder George Acton spearheaded an aggressive defense as second-seeded St. Mary’s controlled play throughout and beat third-seeded Calvert Hall, 12-9.
Adams scored four goals and assisted another for the No. 4 ranked Saints, who led from start to finish. Senior attackman Nick Golini totaled two goals and two assists for St. Mary’s (16-2), which advances to Friday’s championship game against No. 6 McDonogh.
McDonogh, which had to win its last two games to get into the playoffs, upset top-seeded Boys’ Latin, 11-10, in the first semifinal.
“Calvert Hall has great athletes and is coached extremely well. Bryan Kelly has his guys ready to bring it every game,” Lilly said. “We win some and lose some with Calvert Hall. To win this game tonight to get to the championship is special for our program and our school.”
St. Mary’s is back in the championship game for the first time since 2019, when it lost 15-7 to Calvert Hall as the Cardinals captured their third straight title. The Saints are seeking the fourth A Conference championship in program history and first since 2015.
“We haven’t won a championship in seven years so we need to get one,” said Adams, whose two goals off mid-range crank shots just over five minutes apart in the first quarter gave St. Mary’s an early 2-0 lead it would never relinquish.
Junior midfielder Bobby Keane scored two goals and dished off an assist for the Saints, who controlled possession and fired off 35 shots. Junior midfielder Gavin Burlace also scored twice for the St. Mary’s, which forced the Calvert Hall defense to rotate with crisp passing.
“All week in practice we’ve been working on ball movement, making sure we were selfless and kept spinning it,” Adams said.
Senior attackman Jordan Wray totaled two goals and two assists to lead No. 2 Calvert Hall (14-5), which hurt itself by committing a slew of turnovers — some forced and others careless. Senior attackman Truitt Sunderland and junior running mate Nick Steele both contributed two goals and an assist for the Cardinals.
“St. Mary’s had a great game-plan and executed it very well. They were very patient and worked the clock down. I tip my hat to them for playing a great lacrosse game,” Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly said.
While the St. Mary’s offense was patient and methodically worked for high percentage shots, its defense was in many ways the story of the game. Acton (Georgetown) and senior close defenseman Riley Reese (Maryland) were extremely active as the Saints deflected passes and caused turnovers.
Close defensemen Dillon Torggler (Penn State) and Sam Palmisano (Air Force) paired with short-stick defensive midfielders Brogan Stofa and Wyatt Cotton to round out the unit.
“Our defense got stop after stop and just kept giving us the ball back,” Adams said.
Acton said the coaching staff felt the defense matched up well with Calvert Hall and a mixture of man-to-man and zone seemed to give the Baltimore team trouble.
“Everyone on defense played well, especially our short stick middies. We didn’t have to slide a lot to them,” Acton said. “We were getting the ball on the ground then getting it upfield to our offense.”
Calvert Hall was particularly sloppy with the ball in the first half and Kelly felt relieved to enter halftime trailing just 5-4 considering the offensive struggles.
“We couldn’t clear the ball in the first half. We were just throwing it away. I just think we rushed things too much. Sometimes the stage gets too big for kids and they just kind of freak out,” Kelly said. “It was a very frustrating first half to be perfectly honest. We did a much better job of handling the ball in the second half.”
Golini used a superb shot fake to lose his defender then stuck a rocket crank shot into the top corner as St. Mary’s equaled its largest lead at 8-5 with 28.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
However, a fast break goal by Steele to close out the third quarter scoring followed by a tremendous individual move by Wray to open the fourth frame got Calvert Hall back within one with 10:57 remaining.
However, a penalty gave St. Mary’s an extra man and Keane converted with a short sidearm shot from the right side off a feed from Adams.
The Cardinals cut the deficit to 10-8 and 11-9 in the final 6 1/2 minutes, but the Saints answered both times.
Senior midfielder Nicky Souza was trying to run time off the clock when he drew two penalties on Calvert Hall defenseman Luke McAuliffe. The Cardinals were forced to pull the goalie out of the cage to pressure the ball and Adams beat his man and scored into the empty net to make it 12-9 with 1:24 remaining.
Goalie Zack Overend (High Point) recorded his 11th save in the final minute to seal the win.
“It’s a phenomenal feeling, but at the end of the day it doesn’t mean squat because the game that really counts is [Friday],” Lilly said.
St. Mary’s beat McDonogh, 7-6, during the regular season.
Calvert Hall (14-5) 1-3-2-3=9
St. Mary’s (16-2) 3-2-3-4=12
GOALS: CH - T. Sunderland 2, Steele 2, Wray 2, Hottle, S. Kelly, Vasile. SM - Adams 4, Golini 2, Keane 2, Burlace 2, Chick, Cotton. ASSISTS: CH - Wray 2, T. Sunderland, Steele, Provost. SM - Golini 2, Keane, Adams, Kucinski, Hopkins. SHOTS: CH - 26. SM - 35. SAVES: CH - Stangle 10. SM - Overend 11. FACEOFFS: CH - 10. SM - 14. PENALTIES: CH - 4. SM - 4.