Chase for the MIAA A Conference lacrosse title begins Friday

As expected, the lacrosse regular season in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference was filled with ups and downs for every team.  Six survived, earning spots in the playoffs which are set to begin with quarterfinal round play on Friday.  McDonogh and St. Paul's earned the top two seeds, respectively, and thus were rewarded with byes for Friday's opening round.

On Friday, fifth-seeded Loyola Blakefield travels to fourth-seeded Boys' Latin, while sixth-seeded Calvert Hall travels to third-seeded St. Mary's with both games set for 4 p.m.


Here's a breakdown of Friday's matchups:

No. 2 Loyola Blakefield (9-4) at No. 1 Boys' Latin (14-4)

When the teams met one week ago -- a 13-11 home win for Boys' Latin -- it looked as if that could have easily been a preview of the championship game.  But both teams ended up slipping and it's a first-round game instead.

The Dons were clearly in the driver's seat for the top seed following an impressive 13-8 win over McDonogh on April 25, improving to 6-0 in league play with a two-game cushion. But they dropped their last three games to end up on the road for the opening round.  Can they regroup and find another gear with the playoffs now here?

It won't be easy.  Boys' Latin is defending league champions, at home and 36-year coach Bob Shriver is stepping down.  The Lakers also had a chance to secure an opening round bye but fell at St. Paul's, 12-10, in Tuesday's regular season finale.

Both teams have strong seniors who won't want their high school careers to end.  The visiting Dons lean on midfielder Ryan Conrad and attackman Alex Roesner, while the Lakers have attackmen Patrick Spencer and Devin Shewell.  Goalie play will be huge and the Lakers have an edge in experience in the cage.  Junior Jack Pezzulla played a big role in the Lakers' successful playoff run last year, while Loyola sophomore Jake Stout, who replaced injured standout Acie Newton, will be new to the postseason.

In the regular season-meeting, Senior Day at BL, Spencer and Shewell totaled seven goals and four assists and the Lakers largely dominated the fourth quarter to pull out the close win.

The winner will meet top-seeded McDonogh in Tuesday's semifinal at Johns Hopkins.  Loyola and Boys' Latin both had wins over the Eagles in the regular season.

No. 6 Calvert Hall (12-5) at No. 5 St. Mary's (9-6)

Both teams are coming into the game on high notes with the visiting Cardinals snagging the final playoff spot with a character-building 15-10 win at Loyola on Tuesday, while Gilman lost at McDonogh.  St. Mary's closed out with three straight wins to jump up to the third seed after going into Tuesday in fifth place.

When the Saints claimed a sturdy 12-7 win at Calvert Hall on April 10, the difference was clear: St. Mary's senior faceoff specialist Alex Woodall.

He's decidely the area's most dominant player on draws and was that much more that night, winning 20 of 21 to consistently give the Saints the ball. In the playoffs -- when possessions become that much more critical with that much more pressure -- Woodall gives the Saints reassurance that other teams simply don't have.

The Cardinals must get strong play from their young defense and win the battle for ground balls to get the ball to their dangerous attack led by senior standout Timmy Kelly.  He scores and distributes -- four goals and four assists in the Tuesday's win against Loyola -- and brings a no-quit winning intangible that teams need to have to survive in the playoffs.  Jason Brown is another big-time threat should the Saints pay too much attention to Kelly.

In the regular season meeting, the Saints got three goals each from Timmy Hardy and Bennett Johnson to go with Woodall's dominating work at the X.


In mid-April, St. Paul's beat St. Mary's (8-7) and Calvert Hall (12-8) in the same week.

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