Early in his lacrosse career at McDonogh, senior defenseman Scotty Hilgartner never got much sleep the night before any league game, and he’s quick to admit that the school day that followed was never quite as productive.
Mostly, one thing was on his mind as he tried to get through breakfast, classes, lunch and so on — game time at 4:30 p.m.
When asked about that special time finally approaching after the one-year hiatus because of COVID-19 — the Eagles will open their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference slate hosting Mount Saint Joseph on Tuesday — Hilgartner can’t imagine all the emotions he will have built up inside leading to the opening faceoff.
“Obviously not just me, but I’m pretty sure everyone was devastated with losing our season last year. Just losing one year, it may not seem huge, but it really took a toll on everybody,” Hilgartner said. “But, at the same time, that’s given us a whole year to look forward to this season which makes it that much more special. We are all so pumped up. I know at least for McDonogh that all the guys are beside themselves to get back on the field.”
One of Baltimore’s rich traditions in the spring months is MIAA A lacrosse played every Tuesday and Fridays with an occasional Saturday game mixed in.
So for many of the area’s high school lacrosse enthusiasts, the sight of Tuesday’s opening day MIAA schedule — Severn at Archbishop Spalding, 4 p.m; Gilman at Calvert Hall, 4; Mount Saint Joseph at McDonogh, 4:30 — is pure bliss.
“It doesn’t get much better, honestly. It’s very special,” said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly, whose Cardinals won an unprecedented third straight league title before last year’s shutdown. “Within this league, you have so much respect for all the teams you play. It’s just great competition. And this year will be a little more special than others by the fact that we’re getting these kids to be able to get into some semblance of normalcy and bringing something back into their lives they desperately need.”
The Loyola Blakefield at Boys’ Latin game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been moved to 4:15 p.m. Friday, while St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s and John Carroll will open their respective seasons March 30. For all the teams, their return can’t come soon enough.
The last MIAA game was May 17, 2019, when the Cardinals beat St. Mary’s, 15-7, to claim their third straight league title. Since then, many of the league’s 2020 senior class has moved on to play in the college ranks. And for the 2021 class, which missed out on a junior season to further grow and prepare for its time as senior leaders, this season will be unconventional with several pandemic restrictions in place.
This year, teams didn’t have extensive nonconference schedules to build bonds and prepare for league play. Locker rooms have been divided up, so there will be no camaraderie and blaring music to prime for games. Film study is done via Zoom meetings and some practice drills are altered.
All the improvisation comes with something else in this unique time.
“We definitely have a greater appreciation for the season,” Calvert Hall senior attackman Ethan Long said. “Our motto is ‘Be here now,’ because you just don’t know what tomorrow may bring. We don’t take anything for granted — just trying to be here now and focus on being in the present.”
Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell was quick to show his gratitude to his school’s administrators, health staff and others for putting in the hard work to help make Tuesday and beyond happen.
He then talked about the hardship of losing last season, particularly the senior class that showed great promise. Next came all the challenges that will come with this season.
Finally, Farrell felt excitement in a recent conversation’s final topic: just lacrosse and his team.
The Lakers have 21 seniors — Ben Smith, AJ Hernandez, Garrett Glatz and Eddie Lloyd chosen as captains — and he hopes the wealth of experience pays dividends when the playoffs roll around.
“We got a couple really tough kids and a couple really smart kids and they’re all good teammates,” Farrell said of his captains. “That’s a big theme for us this year, being a great teammate and supporting the leaders. We have our standards and the guys are holding to the standards every day and that’s going to get us the results we’d like to have.”
As always, the league is stacked with some of the country’s most talented players.
At Calvert Hall, Long will be joined by fellow senior Truitt Sunderland on attack with midfielder Mic Kelly anchoring the middle. McDonogh’s strength will be a deep midfield led by Dante Trader, Jack Dudas, Hugh Brown and Matt McMillen. At Boys’ Latin, junior attackman Dom Pietramala is a spark to go along with its deep senior class. Loyola Blakefield has special talent all over the field in attackmen Charlie Koras and Matt Dixon to go with midfielder Kevin Tucker.
At Gilman, former Haverford (Pa.) School coach John Nostrant, who was hired before the 2020 season, will get his first taste of MIAA play and will lean on senior attackman Charlie Pope. Defense will be St. Mary’s calling card, led by goalie Wes Schmidt and defenseman Colin Burlace. At St. Paul’s, do-everything senior attackman Noah Chizmar is the Crusaders’ catalyst.
The 2021 MIAA Game of the Week will broadcast seven regular-season games and the semifinal round and championship game. The games will be featured on WBAL/MeTV, livestreamed on MIAAchampionships.com or broadcast on Lacrosse Sports Network. Here’s a look at the full schedule:
MIAA regular season
Tues., March 30 — Boys’ Latin st Severn, 4 p.m.
Tues., April 6 — Gilman at John Carroll, 4 p.m.
Tues., April 13 — Loyola Blakefield at St. Paul’s, 4 p.m.