Start to finish from defense to attack, the Loyola Blakefield lacrosse team put together a complete performance at Boys’ Latin on Sunday. The reward was a 12-10 victory that has the Dons moving in the right direction with the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs on the horizon.
The team’s five captains all played big in the win. Kevin Tucker and Charlie Koras each scored three goals and Matt Dixon added two to pace the offense, while goalie Jack Webb made eight saves and defenseman AJ Larkin was instrumental in limiting the Lakers.
The Dons improved to 6-3, good for fourth place in the A Conference, while the Lakers (6-4 overall) are right behind them with a 5-4 league mark.
For Loyola Blakefield three-year coach Gene Ubriaco, previously a longtime assistant at Boys’ Latin, his team’s effort was a special one.
“That was the best I’ve seen our team play in all facets,” he said. “We’re always striving for complementary lacrosse and I think we did it today. We put together athleticism with decision-making with the appropriate amount of risk. It’s a hard formula, but I think we did it as best as we’ve done it so far.”
Leading 6-4 at the half, the Dons’ play in the opening minutes of the third quarter spoke volumes.
With the Lakers earning the opening possession, Loyola’s defense forced a shot-clock violation and Koras scored at the other end to gain a three-goal advantage with 9:28 to play.
Throughout the second half, the Dons never let the Lakers get within two goals, with consecutive tallies from Tucker midway through the fourth quarter building a 12-8 lead.
In the decisive fourth, the Dons’ attack took what was given and proved prudent with the ball. With Larkin assigned to Boys’ Latin standout Dom Pietramala (two goals, one assist) and holding his own, the defense held up its end. Protecting a 12-9 lead with under three minutes to play, Webb made consecutive saves.
“In the beginning of the year, we knew we had a lot of talent, but it wasn’t coming together very well,” Tucker said. “And I think right now, we’re starting to gel for the first time offensively and defensively, and we got all 50 guys on the team together. You see the guys on the bench all hyped and you see the players communicating on the field and just playing for each other. I think that’s something we didn’t have at the beginning of the year, but I think it’s coming together perfectly and we just got to keep building toward the playoffs.”
Larkin’s work against Pietramala stood out as the Dons mixed their schemes to try to limit his time with the ball. Larkin made sure to focus on fundamentals in defending against Pietramala, keeping his feet moving to stay in front. Strong support from the rest of the defense played big, too.
“For the collective effort on defense, we really just tried to stay together,” Larkin said. “We know that if we don’t play our game, stay together and communicate, then anybody can beat us. But then if we do those things, nobody can beat us. So it’s just really communicating and staying true to your matchup and playing your matchup as well as possible.”
The Lakers got a fine all-around game from senior captain Ben Smith, who finished with four goals and two assists, along with an 11-save performance from goalie Cardin Stoller. But they were never able to make a formidable run to overtake the Dons.
“I think for the most part, we’ve actually done a good job this year of answering the bell sometimes and again you have to give the team that you played a lot of credit,” Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell said. “[The Dons] made some plays in the fourth quarter and it’s not just the fourth quarter, it’s a collection of the whole game. Our heart’s there and our fight’s there — they just played a better game than us today.”
The regular season ends Tuesday with both teams set to play 4 p.m. games — Loyola traveling to Calvert Hall, while Boys’ Latin hosts St. Paul’s.
This season, all 11 teams qualify for the playoffs with the bottom six teams opening play Thursday before the quarterfinals take place Saturday.
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Goals: LB – Koras 3, Burnam 2, Tucker 3, Gravante, Dixon 2, Rice; BL – Smith 4, Pietramala 2, Glatz 3, Walsh Assists: LB – Tolker 3, Miller, Myers; BL – Peitramala, Smith, Pacheco Saves: LB – Webb 8; BL – Stoller 11 Half: LB, 6-4