For Loyola Blakefield’s senior goalie Jack Webb, this time of year is the payoff for his hard work, patience, team-first approach and perseverance.
Every lacrosse player in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference — widely regarded as the finest league in the country — eagerly waits for the playoffs to roll around in their senior year.
Webb’s arrival took a different path.
A three-year varsity player with starter-like talent from the start, he played behind graduated standout Kevin Ellington in his first two years and now gets his first playoff start when the Dons host Boys’ Latin on Saturday in the MIAA A quarterfinals.
For the 18-year-old Johns Hopkins commit, the game’s 10 a.m. start time Saturday can’t come soon enough. But much of his success as a goalie can be found in the calculated answer he gave when asked about getting his first taste of MIAA A playoff lacrosse.
“It is a special moment, but I try to not make certain games more important than others,” Webb said. “At the end of the day, you want to win every single chance you can. So I’m always trying to calm myself and not say that it’s any less or more important than the last game you played.”
Webb first took to the goal when he was 7 years old playing in the Cockeysville recreation league: “Ever since, that’s been my spot, a position I’ve loved,” he said.
It’s the adrenaline that comes with the challenge of stopping a shot that sold Webb on the position. He cherishes the responsibility of being the last line on defense. And he loves winning the constant mind game that come with shrugging off a goal to stay focused on saving the next shot.
Webb, who brings elite physical skills to the cage with his quick hands talked about most, describes the waiting game as a “brutal process” that had him questioning how much he enjoyed playing the sport.
His answer was to work even harder.
“I learned that humility is the best thing possible and you can’t really take anything for granted,” he said. “You have to earn what you get and sometimes there may be a roadblock. You have to be able to face adversity and that’s something I learned the hard way. But, at the end of the day, it helped me as a person much more than if I was just handed the spot.”
Growing up in Charles Village a 10-minute walk from Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field, Webb has wanted to be a Blue Jay since he first started to play. And despite not getting on the field at Loyola until this season, his work at the club level and beyond was noticed.
Last year on July 30, he took a phone call from Hopkins’ coach Peter Milliman, who had replaced longtime coach Dave Pietramala months earlier, that made his dream come true.
The process was relatively quick, Webb said around a week after a roster spot became available.
Milliman reached out to Loyola Blakefield coach Gene Ubriaco and then Webb’s mother, Sharon.
“It was kind of weird throughout the day, I was like ‘Mom what are the odds he’s going to ask me to join the team?’ and every time she got off the phone with him the percentage went higher and higher,” Webb said.
Around 10 p.m. that night, his mom finished another conversation with Milliman and was left with a good feeling.
“Then he calls me up within 15 minutes and we have a normal conversation and then the tone just switched and all of a sudden it was like ‘Yes, sir and no sir.’ and he offers me. I’m like ‘Umm, Mom what do I say?’ because I didn’t think it was real. And then I told him ‘Yes! You’ve been my No. 1 school forever and this is where I want to be and there’s no other school I wanted to go to compared to Hopkins.’ It was like ‘Holy cow, things worked out.’”
Ubriaco applauds his senior goalie for continuing to work hard and staying the course at Loyola instead of transferring to another school to become a starter earlier in his career.
“One of the most satisfying phone calls ever came when I spoke with coach Milliman and he expressed interest in Jack and we had an opportunity to help make that happen for him,” Ubriaco said. It’s kind of like the ultimate story you want every athlete to realize that if you just keep working hard, stay the course and trust the process, water usually finds its level and if you’re a good enough player, they are going to find you.”
There’s lacrosse business left for Webb at Loyola and it’s the best kind. With a 6-4 mark, the Dons earned the fourth seed and a home game against fifth-seeded Boys’ Latin on Saturday. On Sunday, the teams met at Boys’ Latin and Webb, one of five captains, stopped consecutive shots in the fourth quarter, finishing with eight saves as the Dons claimed a 12-10 win.
They are a confident group and much of it comes from who they have playing in goal.
“Jack Webb — he’s a dog,” said junior defenseman and fellow captain AJ Larkin. “Having him as the anchor of our defense and having that trust in him is probably the most important thing for us because we’re not afraid to let up some shots that other teams may not be able to without a goalie with as much talent. So being able to trust that he’s going to be able to perform with the consistency he has all year is really awesome.”
Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell knows getting shots past Webb will be a significant challenge for his Lakers.
“He’s quick, got great hands and explodes to the ball,” Farrell said. “And the thing I think makes him such a huge part of who they are is his ability to catch the ball and get it out quickly. They are very capable of pushing in transition, so he’s like the initiator of their offense sometimes when he makes a big save. That’s what’s scary — if you take a poor shot and don’t get back, it can cost you two because you don’t score and then they go down and score quickly. I think that makes him such a unique goalie and he’s obviously proven himself in our league.”
Webb is banking on having the chance to prove just that for three more games with the semifinals and championship game set for Tuesday and Friday, respectively, at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Webb believes the Dons have the makeup to bring home a championship.
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“At the end of the day, I think it’s mentality …” he said. “I think our chemistry is top notch and our talent is top notch.”