With a bye on Tuesday, the Loyola Blakefield lacrosse team had turned its attention to defense with the extra practice time this week.
It showed up big at St. Paul’s on Friday.
With a 13-save performance from junior goalie Kevin Ellington, three goals from Jack Koras and a game-winner from Kevin Tucker with 1:41 to play, the No. 6 Dons earned a 6-5 win over No. 2 St. Paul’s in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game that further tightens the pack with the regular season concluding Tuesday.
Loyola Blakefield (9-5) and St. Paul’s (10-4) are now tied for third place with 6-3 marks while two-time defending champion and No. 1 Calvert Hall (14-1, 9-0) and No. 3 St. Mary’s (11-5, 7-2) have first and second place, respectively, clinched.
On Saturday, No. 4 Boys’ Latin (9-6) hosts No. 5 Gilman (8-5) with both teams going into the game with 5-3 league marks. No. 7 McDonogh, a winner over Severn on Friday, improved to 5-4.
The Dons had surrendered double-digit goal games in recent weeks and were determined to change that Friday, blanking the Crusaders in the first half to take a 3-0 lead at the break. After the Crusaders came out energized for the third quarter – tying the game with three goals in the first three minutes – and then took their first lead at 5-4 on Tyler Harry’s second goal with 2:04 left in the third, the Dons defense returned to form.
Mixing man-to-man with zones, they kept the Crusaders off the board, while getting a tying goal from Koras with 6:09 to play and then Turner’s deciding goal in the closing minutes.
“It was really a grind. The offense was kind of struggling, but the defense kept us in it,” Tucker said. “We all believe in each other, we’re all brothers. We didn’t think for one second that we were going to losethat game and I think it was just a hard-fought game for everyone and it was a great effort.”
Ellington was sensational in the first half to help the Dons take the lead into halftime.
When Crusaders midfielder Logan Santos had time and space on the right side in the closing seconds of the second quarter, he faked low and then high before shooting low with Ellington kicking it out for his 10th save of the half.
After the Crusaders were able to get the three straight goals past Ellington to quickly tie the game and then eventually take their first lead late in the third quarter, the Dons stayed poised.
Koras took a nifty feed from Matt Dixon to tie at 5 with 6:09 to play. The defense got stops and the ball back to Tucker, who went high to beat St. Paul’s goalie Jamie Grant (nine saves) for the winner.
“I think it was just a result of good team offense,” he said. “I was kind of struggling all day and I finally beat my man, got under him, shot and luckily it went in. It felt great.”
The Crusaders went into the week with a chance to take over first place and leave it scratching their heads. After falling at Calvert Hall, 16-6, in Tuesday’s battle for first place, they couldn’t find any consistent offensive flow at home on Friday to spoil a fine effort from their defense.
“We can’t catch and throw. We can’t finish goals. You’re not going to win many games like that,” St. Paul’s coach Trey Whitty said. “We had eight to 10 great chances in the first half and credit to their goalie for a few good saves obviously, but man you have to bury those in A Conference lacrosse.”
On Tuesday, Loyola Blakefield hosts Calvert Hall, while St. Paul’s stays at home against Boys’ Latin.
Goals: LB – J. Koras 3, Tolker, Breschi, Tucker; SP – Harry 2, Barthelme, Chizmar, Milani. Assists: LB – Dixon, Llewellyn, Lamarca, Motley; SP – Barthelme, Milani, Harry. Saves: LB – Ellington 13; SP – Grant 9. Half: LB, 3-0