With a light, steady rain still falling at Gilman on Friday, St. Paul’s lacrosse coach Steve Settembrino was quick and direct with the postgame speech he delivered to his Crusaders.
After a 11-5 win over the Greyhounds, he commended them on the complete team victory and then told them the opportunity it helped create.
On Tuesday — the final day of regular-season play in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference — the Crusaders can earn a coveted playoff spot with a win over their biggest rival, defending champion Boys’ Latin.
The win puts St. Paul’s (11-5) at 5-4 in a congested MIAA field that has eight teams still alive for the six playoff spots. Grady O’Day (two goals, three assists), Jake Bair (three goals, one assist) and Brody Atkinson (three goals) sparked the attack Friday with a collectively strong defensive effort in support of goalie Max Watkinson, who made five saves.
“Our guys know exactly what we have to do to make the playoffs and we’re finally healthy,” said Settembrino, who cited a several players battling illnesses during a significant stretch. “So we’re finally healthy and guys are really coming together and really understanding what we need to be successful.”
On Friday, the success started from the start, and the Crusaders stayed persistent throughout to prove too much for the Greyhounds, who fell to 8-12 overall and 2-8 in league play.
Luke Bair opened the scoring a minute into the game and the Crusaders built a 4-0 advantage, with the last of Atkinson’s three straight goals coming with 10:37 to play in the second quarter.
With a 5-2 halftime lead, the Crusaders got two goals from Jake Bair and another from O’Day to increase the lead to 8-2. The visitors kept control the rest of the game.
“We’ve had some games this season that [in the] first half maybe we didn’t come out ready to play or second half we weren’t ready, and I think today we put it all together,” Jake Bair said. “We did a good job, so let’s hope we can keep doing that moving forward.”
While Tuesday’s 4 p.m. home test is daunting — Boys’ Latin is defending league champions and entered Friday in first place — Bair and the Crusaders are looking forward to the challenge.
“Me being a senior and I think there’s 10 of us seniors — this being our last year — we really want to put it all on the line and just play for each other,” he said.
The Greyhounds, which lost its fifth straight league game and will close the season at McDonogh on Tuesday, got a stellar 16-save performance from senior goalie Kyle Morris.
Gilman coach Tony Incontrera applauded his group’s hard work, but noted the overwhelming 20-2 advantage the Crusaders had on 50-50 ground balls in the first half.
“So that’s the sense of urgency that they played with and that’s what we want to do,” he said. “We need to buy into the offseason training to get bigger, stronger and faster so we can compete at the national level, which is what teams in the MIAA do.”
Goals: SP — L. Bair, Atkinson 3, O’Day 2, J. Bair 3, Brown, Iannantuono;
G — Maloney, Colhoun, Woloson, Wilkerson, Radebaugh
Assists: SP — O’Day 3, Smyth 2, Marino 2. J. Bair.
G — Woloson
Saves: SP — Watkinson 5;
G — Morris 16
Half: SP, 5-2