Six soccer programs in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference have joined this fall to compete for a championship.
The MIAA announced last week that its member schools can opt for a non-sanctioned “open season” for fall sports because the typical season was disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. After the announcement, Archbishop Curley, Archbishop Spalding, Calvert Hall, John Carroll, Loyola Blakefield and Mount Saint St. Joseph joined forces to create the Catholic League for the 2020 season.
A 10-game regular season schedule has every team playing each other twice in a home-and-home series starting Oct. 31 and continuing through Dec. 9. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs with a semifinal round followed by the Catholic League championship game. The higher-seeded teams will host the contests.
Fellow A Conference teams McDonogh, Gilman, St. Paul’s and Boys' Latin have decided not to participate.
With MIAA soccer steeped in rich tradition, the participating schools wanted to bank on a meaningful season that included a champion declared at the end.
Mission accomplished with the makeshift Catholic League.
“Our goal was to put together a schedule that would give our respective teams something to play for,” said Curley athletic director Matt Hatton on behalf of the participating schools. “We are excited that the boys, especially the seniors, will have the opportunity to compete this year and continue the local soccer rivalries that the Baltimore area has been known for over the years.”
The teams are in the midst of tryouts in preparation of stepping onto the field Oct. 31. The opening-day slate features Calvert Hall at Spalding, Curley at Mount Saint Joe, and John Carroll at Loyola with times yet to be determined.
While disappointing that the full complement of MIAA teams will not be competing, Loyola coach Lee Tschantret will have his Dons approaching the season as any other. And while most of his players returned to their respective club teams over the summer, he says playing high school ball brings a different dynamic.
“There’s something to be said about representing something that’s bigger than yourself. I personally think it’s a little bit more akin to the college game than anything else, so I think it’s good for them in that way,” Tschantret said. “There’s different pressures that they face with high school than they face with their club teams — an intensity and something different about our games. Every game is a rivalry game no matter who you play, no matter what the talent disparity may be and that’s just hard to duplicate.”
Dons' senior standout Dom Caltabiano, who now gets the chance to play in his fourth varsity season, agrees with Tschantret’s assessment.
“I’d say there’s a difference. It’s definitely a great feeling to win for your school, have all your buddies cheer you on and just represent your school,” he said.
At Mount Saint Joseph, the buzz around school is picking up with tryouts set to begin Monday. The team is excited at the chance to play on the stadium’s new artificial-turf field.
“We’re all very excited. I know not every team is in it, but I still think to be able to compete for a championship is very good, especially for the seniors because this is their last year playing for the high school team,” said junior standout Brian St. Martin.
Mount Saint Joe coach Mike St. Martin applauded all of the schools administrations for making the season happen.
“I think the administration has done a great job of looking out for the kids, putting safety protocols in place,” he said. “There’s also the whole mental part of this pandemic is these kid also need to be getting out there playing, competing, relieving stress and doing what they’ve grown up doing. We would love to have all the schools playing, but these are the cards that were dealt and we’re excited to have this come together.”
Whether supporters will be permitted to attend games is still being determined and live streaming is being planned by the schools.
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On the girls side in the IAAM, Spalding, Mercy, Notre Dame Prep and John Carroll have committed to playing against each other twice during the regular season with no playoffs yet to be set.