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No. 2 Loyola spoils No. 1 McDonogh's perfect bid to win MIAA 'A' title in boys soccer

The Loyola Blakefield soccer team was in the way of a perfect season for No. 1 McDonogh in Sunday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game. And the No. 2 Dons had no plans of backing down from the defending league champion Eagles.

Loyola survived some early pressure, got a goal from senior forward Ryan Conrad late in the first half and then its confidence grew greater with each passing minute in the second half.

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No space was permitted for the Eagles' vaunted offense, and when Conrad added his second goal of the game with 5:33 left, Loyola was on its way to a stunning 2-0 upset win at Stevenson University for its second conference title in three years.

Loyola finished the season with a 16-4-3 record, avenging two regular-season losses to McDonogh. The Eagles, who are currently No. 1 in Top Drawer Soccer's Fab 50 national rankings, end with a 19-1 mark.

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Scoring big goals in soccer championship games at Stevenson is nothing new for Conrad, who is the country's top-rated recruit in lacrosse and has committed to play that sport at Virginia. As a sophomore, he scored two goals to lead the Dons to a 2-0 win over Gilman.

"I just come to play, I love playing on this big field with this huge crowd. It gets me excited, and I was fortunate enough to get goals in both championship games," he said. "We knew coming in we had a chance because it's hard beating a team three times in a row.

"We knew that we were going to have a good game, so we came out and got one, and we kept getting more and more confident, and they kept getting down on themselves. We just kept playing our game and were lucky enough to get another one to put them away."

Like they've done all season, the Eagles came out composed and controlled play for much of the first 30 minutes. But this time, they were unable to get any quality scoring opportunities.

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Conrad made the most of his first chance with 9:22 to play in the first half. He collected a ball on the left side, separated from his defender and then hit a shot from 16 yards that finished inside the lower far post.

The goal brought confidence to the Dons, who received exceptional play from defensive midfielder Gavin Barger and center back Riley Collins.

In the second half, the Dons gave the Eagles limited time on the ball and played more on even terms in protecting their advantage. Most importantly, they kept the ball away from McDonogh All-Metro standout midfielder Connor Smith.

"Loyola is one of the only teams that actually came out and pressed us as much as they could and, honestly, I think it caught us off guard," Smith said. "Most teams sit back on us, and we have plenty of time. Today, they came out and were always on top of us. Loyola did a great job."

Another fine individual effort from Conrad ended the Eagles' dream of the program's first perfect season when he made a strong run with the ball down the right side and finished from 16 yards away. The Loyola student section, lively throughout the game, erupted and moments later — after the final whistle — was greeted by the jubilant Dons.

"The belief…," Loyola coach Lee Tschantret said. "The belief in themselves and the belief in one another and the belief in the system we play — I can't say enough.

"McDonogh came out and put some pressure on us early, but they weren't getting very many good opportunities, which was good for us. And then we found our way into the game, and once we did, I thought our confidence went through the roof."

After the game was the expected difficult time for the McDonogh side. The Eagles played great soccer all season, successfully navigating through a demanding regular season and seemingly poised to bring home one more win. But it wasn't meant to happen.

"It's a tough way to end your year with some of the soccer we played and things we did," McDonogh coach Brandon Quaranta said. "There's no magic words you can say at this moment to make them feel better, But I hope when some weeks go by, they can look back and realize that we did some really special things."

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A Conference

(at Stevenson University)

2 Loyola Blakefield 2, 1 McDonogh 0

Goals: LB – Conrad 2

Saves: LB – Hunt 3; M – Black 2

Half: LB, 1-0

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