The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference lacrosse playoffs are up next, and the bar has been set.
McDonogh, which wrapped up a perfect 10-0 regular season Tuesday with a 14-7 win at Gilman, placed it rather high.
In going 10-0 in league play, the Eagles averaged 14 goals per game, while allowing eight.
On Tuesday, they scored three goals in the opening three minutes to set the tone and built an 11-2 lead early in the third quarter.
This marks the second time McDonogh has enjoyed a perfect regular season, the last coming in 2016 when it went on to win its most recent A Conference championship.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment for our guys and I couldn’t be more proud of our team, our seniors to have that accomplishment to be undefeated in the league, because I’ve been around for a long, long time, having also played in the league way back when, so I understand what it takes,” McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner said.
The playoffs, set to start Thursday, will have a different format from past years with all 11 teams qualifying. The top-seeded Eagles and the next four teams earned a bye in the opening round, while the remaining six teams will pair off based on seedings and play for berths in Saturday’s quarterfinal round, with the higher seed hosting.
Gilman is seeded ninth with a 3-7 league mark and will travel to eighth-seeded St. Paul’s on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Eagles did what they’ve done all season: control all areas of the field.
Jack Horrigan scored the first of his four goals on the opening possession, McCabe Millon (three goals) made it 2-0 with 9:17 to play in the first quarter and faceoff specialist Zach Hayashi won a clean faceoff and made a strong run with the ball before finding Luke Miller for a 3-0 advantage.
Senior midfielder Dante Trader Jr., who dominated the middle and added one goal and three assists, believes the Eagles are playing at their highest level at just the right time.
“Week in and week out, we come in and just play hard all four quarters and make plays. We play unselfish, our chemistry is at an all-time high, but I just credit the coaches overall with everything,” he said. “They make practice so hard, we come out at game time and it’s nothing. And coach makes sure to steer us away from rat poison — it’s nice being 10-0 and undefeated, but that doesn’t mean anything if we can’t finish it out.”
The Eagles will appreciate the regular-season accomplishment for a night before another hard practice Wednesday. The first playoff test comes Saturday — against an opponent yet to be determined — but the Eagles will taking nothing for granted.
“There’s some really good teams playing at a really high level,” Hilgartner said. “But I think we got great camaraderie within our team. Our guys really play together, they put energy into each other and I think we’re solid in all phases. Maybe not great in all phases, but I think we’re solid offensively, in the middle of the field and at the defensive end, so I think that’s really helped us out a lot.”
Gilman coach John Nostrant agreed.
“They’re just big and strong and athletic and there’s not a lot of weaknesses with them,” he said. “They’re good in the middle of the field, they got four really good poles, maybe even five or six — and they’re seasoned on attack, so it’s a really hard matchup.”
As for his Greyhounds, they put together a strong fourth quarter when they could have hung their heads. Tucker Hebert scored two goals, JJ Brummett added one and played strong through the middle and goalie Kyle Morris made nine saves.
Last Friday, Gilman claimed an 11-5 win at St. Paul’s, and it will try to repeat the effort Thursday to keep the season going.
“Now we’re in a situation where we’re one and done, so we have nothing to lose. We should be loose and have fun and we’ll see what happens,” Nostrant said.
The semifinals are set for Tuesday and the championship game is next Friday, all taking place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Calvert Hall 12, Loyola Blakefield 11: The host Cardinals built a 10-1 halftime lead only to have to fend off the Dons’ considerable rally to claim the tight win.
Ethan Long (three goals, two assists) and Jordan Wray (three goals, one assist) led the Cardinals’ attack while goalie Tommy Lubin finished with 12 saves.
Henry Tolker and Kevin Tucker sparked the Dons’ comeback bid, each finishing with three goals and one assist.
Calvert Hall, which finished as the sixth seed with a 6-4 mark, will host John Carroll on Thursday, while Loyola Blakefield (6-4) earned a bye as the fourth seed based on a three-way tie that included fifth seeded Boys’ Latin.