As two-time defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions, the Calvert Hall lacrosse team has grown accustomed to getting every team’s best.
In the past two years, the No. 1 Cardinals’ best has simply been a smidgen better.
On Tuesday, No. 2 St. Mary’s was the latest to provide a push.
The visiting Saints started well and came up with a late rally, but Calvert Hall had the longer stretches of quality play to claim a 13-9 win.
Sharing the ball on attack with swift ball movement was once again the Cardinals’ biggest asset in improving to 9-1 overall and 4-0 in the MIAA. Jack Sawyer (three goals, one assist), Daniel Kelly (two goals, two assists), Grant Mitchell (two goals, two assists) Truitt Sunderland (three goals and Cole Herbert (three assists) were all instrumental with goalie Jackson Marshall making seven saves.
A 9-1 run in the middle quarters provided a big lead and Sawyer scored twice late to spoil any plans the Saints (6-4, 3-1) had for a comeback.
“We got to come out every single time like it’s a championship game because we know we’re getting everybody’s best every single game and everybody wants to beat us,” Sawyer said. “So I think we just have to keep playing hard, keep improving and kind of just play like how we’ve been playing and I think we’ll be very successful this year.”
The Saints had their game plan working early with patient possessions that led to a 4-2 advantage going into the second quarter. But one thing that has become clear in the Cardinals’ continued success is their ability to take advantage of opponents’ mistakes.
After a Saint defenseman received a one-minute, non-releasable penalty for a cross-check with three seconds left in the first quarter, the Cardinals got extra-man goals from Kelly and Mitchell to draw even within the first minute of the second quarter. They outscored the Saints 9-1 to build an 11-5 advantage late in the third quarter.
In the pivotal stretch, the Cardinals consistently did the little things first that turned into bigger things. Mitchell threaded the needle with a pass to Sunderland in front that made it 7-5. Connor Mitchell forced a ground ball at midfield and then saved it from going out of bounds. He found Sawyer, who worked a give-and-go with Kelly down the left side before making 9-5 in the final minute of the third quarter.
“In the first quarter, we were slow to start,” Sawyer said. “Coach [Bryan] Kelly told us to start moving the ball – ball movement and player movement — like we’ve been doing all year and I think after we heard that message and started putting that on the field we were playing pretty well.”
St. Mary’s, which started 3-0 in the league with wins over Archbishop Spalding, St. Paul’s and Loyola Blakefield, left Calvert Hall with a positive to build on in rallying to cut the lead to 11-9 with 3:31 to play. Scout Ripley scored consecutive goals in the stretch. But the Cardinals were able to kill a one-minute penalty and Sawyer sealed the win with two goals in the final 1:32 of play.
For the Saints, Gabe Souza and Garett Nilsen each had two goals with Ian Krampf adding one goal and two assists.
“Yeah, 11-9 with two minutes to go in a game where we just didn’t finish there at the end after digging a hole to deep,” St. Mary’s coach Victor Lilly said. “When you come up and play a big program like this you have to play for 48 minutes all the way through. Every mistake you make Calvert Hall will try to capitalize on them and they’re pretty good at it. They’re very deep, very good athletes and they just keep coming at you in waves.”
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Goals: SM – Souza 2, Nilsen 2, Ripley 2, Krampf, Burlace 2; CH – Sunderland 3, Sawyer 3, G. Mitchell 2, C. Mitchell, Long, Webber, D. Kelly 2. Assists: SM – Souza, Nilsen, Krampf 2; CH – Herbert 3, Sawyer, G. Mitchell 2, Cottone, D. kelly 2. Saves: SM – Schmidt 4; CH – Marshall 7. Half: CH, 9-5