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Every athlete sitting on the girls’ side of the stage inside St. Mary’s High wore college shirts signifying their departure to play lacrosse at schools as far north as Connecticut and far west as Arizona.

All except Alli Cherry.

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Cherry, who brought home the Saints’ first volleyball IAAM B Conference title in program history several weeks ago, is bound for a frozen lake in upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where she’ll be bundled in thick ice hockey pads, not a lacrosse uniform.

Cherry was one of 27 St. Mary’s athletes penning their intentions to continue their athletic careers at various universities. She was one of just six athletes playing a sport other than lacrosse, as well as one of three who would be playing more than one.

After picking up hockey in seventh grade, progressing from roller skates to the ice by attending boys’ clinics with her neighbor, Cherry committed to her uncommon sport, driving herself out to Laurel for practice.

“I’d never played hockey and my parents had never played hockey," she said. "It was just figuring out the game, having a passion for it.”

But after experiencing the euphoria of winning a championship in October, the idea of that being her final volleyball match for good gnawed at her.

When a volleyball coach approached Cherry during a recent visit to Paul Smith’s, it seemed kismet.

“I was like, I really wanna keep playing. It was so much fun," Cherry said. "I thought it was going to be over, but then I realized I could still play in college. The opportunity came my way.”

After Cherry stepped away from the signing table, Saints girls lacrosse coach Mindy Jones nearly changed her legal residence to that chair.

She greeted 11 of her own players one by one as each of them inked their letters of intent.

“It is amazing, especially going into my fourth season," Jones said. "Every single year, we’ve doubled and tripled. This year, especially, we’ve significantly tripled since I started. It’s a testament to the hard work these girls have put forth. To see where the future of St. Mary’s lacrosse is going, I couldn’t be more proud of our seniors signing today.”

Jones praised future two-sport college athletes Emma Legacy and Alexis Tackney for juggling academics as well as their multiple sports over their high school years with grace.

“I hope that they accomplish everything they want as far as their lacrosse careers, but even bigger. We talk about life after lacrosse," Jones said of all her players. "They’ve already had amazing high school careers, and I hope they excel at the next level -- a lot are going to play at Division 1, and 2 and 3. I hope they accomplish everything there, but further as far as careers and life. I wish them the best.”

Goalkeeper Jo Torres, a four-star recruit according to Inside Lacrosse and one of 17 Saints bound for Division I programs, visualized her collegiate path as a child.

Both of her parents served in the armed forces, in the Air Force. When her sister, Jade, joined longtime coach Cindy Timchal and the Navy women’s lacrosse team a few years ago, it only reinforced Jo Torres’ ambition.

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“I always knew I wanted to serve my country," she said. "... I knew I wanted to keep that going in the family. I knew I was passionate to be something bigger than myself. I decided Navy was the best for me. ”

Her parents, Torres said, weren’t too disappointed their daughters chose the Navy over their own branch, knowing that Air Force doesn’t have a women’s lacrosse program.

Nonetheless, Torres intends to be a pilot.

“Being there, in that atmosphere, is definitely going to be different," she said. "It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be difficult, but having (my sister) there to push me through everything and keep me going, I’m really excited.”

From across the aisle, Charlie Brady walked to the table wearing the same school on his shirt as Torres.

When Navy brought in a new men’s lacrosse coach, Joe Amplo, in the spring, that didn’t concern Brady; in fact, it deepened his desire to play at the Naval Academy, inspiring an urge to build something new.

“I think he’s a great coach and has a great history. The whole coaching staff, they’re going in the right direction and I’m excited to join the program," Brady said. "I’m hoping to be a good teammate. I don’t know yet what they’re going to do with me, what they’re going to use me for, but I’m excited to contribute in any way I can.”

It’ll be an odd sensation come spring, when Brady faces a figure dressed in black and gold on the field that he’d always counted on for support in the past. Just after Brady stepped away from the table, Patrick Dunleavy sat down. A man sitting in the front row whispered, “Go Army.”

“It’s a neat experience to have Patrick, who’ve I’ve spent time with over the last four years and grown really close with, to see him go to Army and me go to Navy," Brady said. “It’ll be awesome to be able to go play against each other for the next four years.”

For Brady’s fall teammate, Alex Wicks, signing his own Letter of Intent stirred up a stew of emotions. By playing lacrosse at Maryland, Wicks would be transitioning from one dominant program to another, readying to add his brush to a far-sweeping Terrapin legacy of NCAA championship crowns.

It also meant he’d be saying goodbye to football for good.

Wicks laid dust to every opponent he faced on the gridiron this fall, well on his way to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards before the John Carroll regular-season game. He hadn’t even known that night how severe he’d injured his hip was until he tried to rise from bed the next morning, and couldn’t.

It was broken, and season-ending.

“I kind of said my goodbye to football when I got hurt," Wicks said. I gave it away, and now I’m looking on forward to lacrosse.”

As much as Wicks cared for football, lacrosse is his true love. The senior made the second-to-last cut for the U19 men’s national training team this summer and racked up 10 goals, nine assists, 15 caused turnovers and a team-high 79 ground balls last spring for the Saints.

In the Terps, Wicks found the same chance to compete at the most intense possible level, along with other fierce contenders.

“Back when I was getting recruited, I really liked coach (John)Tillman’s philosophy of winning. I’d always wanted to be a winner, and it’ll give an opportunity there, "Wicks said. "...There’s always a high expectation of winning there. It’s a disappointment if you don’t make the playoffs, same as here. It’s prepared me for the next level.”

Maryland may serve as a springboard for Wicks’ potential post-collegiate career as well: the pros.

“I’ll see how it goes for the next four years. I know the game is growing a lot, the new leagues, and it’s definitely an opportunity I’d like to pursue if I can," he said. "The next four years are first.”

St. Mary’s boys coach Victor Lilly greeted Wicks, Brady and Dunleavy as well as eight other Saints pledging to continue lacrosse in college.

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Like Jones, seeing that many of his players moving on to play at the next level validated everything Lilly had done for them as a coach.

“To see them on the field is one thing, but to see these kids develop and improve and move into their next phase of their life is incredible,” he said.

Lilly met one player, York-bound Nick Lilly, his son, just the same.

“He’s got a great opportunity to go on to play lacrosse, and we’ll be able to support that as a family," Victor Lilly said. “For me, he’s another player out on the field. I don’t get lost in the moment. That said, we’ll have our time over steak dinner tonight maybe.”

As all of the St. Mary’s athletes stood together for a group photo, a few lacrosse players glanced at one another and, without another beat, strung arms together. Before their time together was over (except for other than two pairs headed to the same schools), they were still as bonded as they’d ever been.

“That group of guys there -- there’s 16 seniors in our program and 11 of them are represented today," Lilly said. “Those 16 seniors are a tight-knit group. They’re fun to coach. They’re one unit and yet they open to the guys underneath of them. They were there last year and they understand the importance of team unity. That’s what’s so great about the St. Mary’s community in general.”

--The following is a list provided to The Capital of athletes who have signed or who will sign during the current signing period.

Men’s Lacrosse

Will Tominovich, St. Mary’s (Georgetown)

Patrick Dunleavy, St. Mary’s (Army)

Alex Wicks, St. Mary’s (Maryland)

Gavin Ridgeway, St. Mary’s (York)

Nick Lilly, St. Mary’s (York)

Gabe Souza, St. Mary’s (Jacksonville)

Connor Kavle, St. Mary’s (Tampa)

Lachlan Barber, St. Mary’s (Franklin and Marshall)

Allen Hockenberry, St. Mary’s (UMBC)

Zach Dudley, St. Mary’s (UMBC)

Charlie Brady, St. Mary’s (Navy)

Jamison Gaskins, South River (Towson)

Ben Morgan, Severna Park (Fairfield)

Connor Panebianco, Severna Park (UMBC)

Henry Wood, Severna Park (Ohio Wesleyan)

Michael Harmeyer, Severna Park (Virginia)

Christopher Savani, Severna Park (Frostburg State)

Casey Domanski, Broadneck (Mount St. Mary’s)

Hayden Gourley, Broadneck (Bridgewater)

Patrick Turner, Archbishop Spalding (Holy Cross)

Tucker Denault, Archbishop Spalding (Jacksonville)

Michael Eklof, Archbishop Spalding (Mount St. Mary’s)

Russell Melendez, Archbishop Spalding (Marquette)

Saam Olexo, Archbishop Spalding (Syracuse)

Colby Raber, Archbishop Spalding (UMBC)

Hudson Stramanak, Archbishop Spalding (Randolph Macon)

Elijah Whiting, Archbishop Spalding (Widener)

Women’s Lacrosse

Emma Legacy, St. Mary’s (McDaniel’s)

Grayson McKenzie, St. Mary’s (Winthrop)

Macey Brenner, St. Mary’s (Fairfield)

Sydney Barnett, St. Mary’s (Mount St. Mary’s)

Jo Torres, St. Mary’s (Navy)

Marielle McAteer, St. Mary’s (Hopkins)

Katie Ochall, St. Mary’s (Campbell)

Emma Driggs, St. Mary’s (Washington and Lee)

Rosie Davis, St. Mary’s (Arizona State)

Emma Legacy, St. Mary’s (McDaniel)

Alexis Tackney, St. Mary’s (Washington College)

Kaitlyn Panebianco, St. Mary’s (George Washington)

Madeline Lenkart, South River (United States Military Academy)

Jordan Vincent, South River (High Point)

Caitlin McGuirk, South River (Loyola Maryland)

Morgan Carter, South River (Connecticut)

Alexis Grant, South River (Jacksonville)

Rylee Kelly, South River (Massachusetts-Lowell)

Kaylee Mia Geist, South River (Queens University)

Tommi Bresnahan, South River (Christopher Newport)

Abbi Jones, Severna Park (East Stroudsburg)

Camryn Chew, Severna Park (Loyola Maryland)

Julia Putzi, Severna Park (Butler)

Sophie Graziolie, Severna Park (Fairfield)

Alexis Sullivan, Broadneck (San Diego State)

Sammy Dupcak, Broadneck (Penn State)

Lindsay Beardmore, Archbishop Spalding (Navy)

Caroline Campitelli, Archbishop Spalding (Stevenson)

McKenna Davis, Archbishop Spalding (University of Tampa)

Maggie Jordan, Archbishop Spalding (University of Richmond)

Keeley McNemar, Archbishop Spalding (Rutgers)

Kristin O’Neill, Archbishop Spalding (Penn State)

Mackenzie Scheib, Archbishop Spalding( High Point)

Field Hockey

Emma Legacy, St. Mary’s (McDaniel)

Alexis Tackney, St. Mary’s (Washington College)

Kim Morrissey, South River (Ohio-Wesleyan)

Lila Slattery, Severna Park (Northwestern)

Alex Clough, Broadneck (Ithaca College)

Shelby Miller, Archbishop Spalding (Washington & Lee)

Women’s Soccer

Sophia Michalski-Cooper, South River (Virginia Commonwealth)

Morgan McLean, South River (Frostburg State)

Alexis Keating, Broadneck (Frostburg State)

Payton Erbe, Broadneck (Hood College)

Lela Clark, Broadneck (Frostburg State)

Hannah Williams, Archbishop Spalding (Military Academy at West Point)

Zandy Gardner, Archbishop Spalding (DeSales)

Men’s Basketball

Eric Sondberg, South River (Lafayette)

Josh Akers, Archbishop Spalding (Hood College)

Women’s Basketball

Ashlynn Burrows, South River (Salisbury)

Baseball

Dhane Blair, St. Mary’s (Frostburg)

McCormick Buchner, St. Mary’s (Rider)

Chris Nalley, South River (Hood College)

Evan Lewis, Severna Park (Louisiana Tech)

Matt Issac, Broadneck (Penn State-Harrisburg)

Ethan Soto, Broadneck (Nichols College)

Ethan McCormick, Archbishop Spalding (Liberty)

Josh Moylan, Archbishop Spalding (East Carolina)

Nate Vermillion, Archbishop Spalding (Frostburg State)

Nick Botsaris, Archbishop Spalding (Frostburg State)

Tyler Hargus, Archbishop Spalding (Susquehanna)

Nick Schepens, Archbishop Spalding (SUNY Maritime)

Softball

Elizabeth Shafer, Broadneck (Dayton)

Jordan Moore, Archbishop Spalding (Converse College)

Cross Country

Anna Janke, Broadneck (Queens University)

Madison Palmer, Broadneck (East Stroudsburg)

Swimming

Connor Drucis, St. Mary’s (Lehigh)

Sailing

James Golden, St. Mary’s (St. Mary’s)

Volleyball

Alli Cherry, St. Mary’s (Paul Smith’s)

Emma Quandt, Broadneck (Ashland)

Ice Hockey

Alli Cherry, St. Mary’s (Paul Smith’s)

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