In a steady, cold rain Monday afternoon, the McDonogh boys lacrosse team continued to learn more about itself with another significant nonconference test provided by Indiana-power Culver Academy.
The No. 2 Eagles have an equal mix of returning players and newcomers, and with it has come many of the typical ups and downs any team finds early in the season.
So far, it’s been a perfect blend.
Seniors MattHilgartner (five goals, one assist) and Liam Powderly (three goals, three assists) were the offensive catalysts, and faceoff specialist Gable Braun and goalie Evan Long picked important times to shine as McDonogh was able to hold off a late rally to claim a 12-11 win.
For the Eagles, it was their fourth win against an opponent ranked in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse Top 25 High School Power Rankings as they enter the start of Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play with a 6-0 mark. Culver came into game ranked No. 2, and No. 4 McDonogh is poised to make another move up after the victory.
After celebrating the win, the Eagles quickly turned their attention to Friday, when they open their league schedule against No. 6 St. Paul’s.
“The MIAA is the most important thing that we focus on, but to beat all these great teams before definitely gives us a ton of confidence,” Powderly said. “That was a great team we played and we showed great resiliency. They made a great comeback at the end, but we just grinded it out. I think we’re really going to roll in the next couple weeks.”
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Up one, the Eagles got an extra-man goal from Hilgartner to make it 8-6 with 1:13 to play in the third quarter, and the senior attackman was only getting started. He scored his third and fourth goals early in the fourth quarter, and when Powderly added another, the Eagles had an 11-6 advantage and 8:19 to play.
But Culver, which claimed a 9-8 win over McDongh last season, quickly responded behind Owen Hiltz and Sammy English, who combined to score five goals. In between their scoring splurge was a big stop from Long (12 saves) when the lead was down to 11-8 and some late heroics from Braun. After English cut the lead to 11-10 with 4:34 to play, Braun won the ensuing faceoff and headed straight to the goal to make it 12-10 with 4:27 to play.
Another goal from English made it 12-11 with 2:59 left, and the Eagles survived a man-down situation for 30 seconds in the final minute to secure the win..
McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner was critical of several mistakes his Eagles made — many forced by a talented Culver team — but has seen one constant in the team’s undefeated start that has him pleased.
“A lot of resiliency,” he said. “In every close game we’ve had, we’ve had some lulls and some moments where we didn’t play well and we bounced back. I give credit to all our seniors in leading the team in that direction.”
Goals: C – Robinson 2, Anderson, Saris, Chauvette, T. English, Hiltz 2, S. English 3; M – Powderly 3, Swanson, Hilgartner 5, Bonitz, Cole, Braun. Assists: C – Chauvette 2, Hiltz, Saris; M – Powderly 3, Hilgartner 1, Beattie 2. Saves: C – Gianforcaro 10; M – Long 12. Half: M, 6-5