With heavy hearts, Cardinals overcome a day’s wait, the rain and Loyola in returning to the MIAA A Conference lacrosse championship game

by Dave Larkin

Poised to play it’s MIAA A Conference lacrosse semifinal contest with Loyola, Tuesday night, the Cardinals had to check their emotions when the contest was postponed due to the severe storms that moved in shortly after Boys’ Latin had knocked off McDonogh in what was to be the first game of a semifinal double-header at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.

With the thunder and lightning gone, but the rain persisting when the two teams reconvened to play the contest on Wednesday afternoon at the “U,” the Cardinals manufactured their own form electric power as they dominated their arch-rivals, 15-9.

With the win the Cardinals earned a return trip to Unitas Stadium on Friday night (7:30 p.m.) where they will face Boys’ Latin and try to accomplish the rare achievement of capturing back-to-back MIAA A crowns.

Loyola Blakefield jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, before Calvert reeled off 13 straight goals and the rest was a formality as the Cardinals coasted to the six goal victory.

Senior attackman Connor Hume and sophomore midfielder Jack Koras scored back-to-back goals to stun the Cards early, but they fought back with a vengeance.

Using domination at the face-off X, several failed clears by Loyola, pinpoint passing, and an unselfish attack, Calvert Hall unleashed a relentless assault on the Dons’ goal as they put together “baker’s dozen,” to build a 13-2 advantage with 9:50 remaining in the third quarter.

Senior attackman, and reigning VSN Player of the Year, Jacob Kelly (2 goals, 5 assists) had never seen anything like it.

“Thirteen straight goals is nuts”, said Kelly. “I mean club, anything, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a 13 goal run.”

Loyola head coach Ben Rubeor, who announced last summer that this would be his final season with the Dons, described his squad as being “shellshocked” at giving up 13 in a row.

“I thought our start was pretty good, we went up 2-0 and our energy was good,” said Rubeor. “The boys looked sharp there in the beginning. We did not clear the ball well, and we didn’t handle their offensive pressure. They seemed to score every time they came down on offense.”

Once Kelly took over as “quarterback,” the Cards were seemingly cutting and scoring at will. Five different teammates scored off of feeds from Kelly, and nine Cardinals scored in all. Sophomore midfielder Cole Herbert continued to display his athleticism and determination as he contributed with several ground balls, relentless defense, not to mention two goals and two assists.

Calvert Hall head coach Bryan Kelly was proud of his team’s effort and execution, despite playing with heavy hearts on Wednesday.

“We had a lot to play for. Our senior captain’s (senior midfielder Peter Ilardo) father passed away this morning,” revealed Kelly. “It’s been very emotional. The way these kids battle, and for Peter to come out here and play – it’s bigger than any lacrosse game. The kids played for Peter, and they played for each other today. Peter is a huge leader for us and to see him walk in the locker room at 2:30 – that’s why we were a little late.”

Calvert Hall already had dedicated the season to its long-time assistant coach David Huntley, who died suddenly just prior to the season, and it has been a season of painful emotions.

Jacob Kelly, the coach’s son, echoed those sentiments.

“I’m blessed to be his (Ilardo) friend,” said Kelly. “He’s one of the strongest people I know. He’s a great older brother to everyone in the locker room.”

Back to the field, Daniel Kelly, Jacob’s younger brother, scored a team-high four goals and added an assist and Zach Green pitched in with two scores, in addition to the tallies from Jacob Kelly and Herbert. Also, Jack Sawyer had a goal and an assist, while Grant Mitchell, Ryan Swain, Jack Connelly and Ethan Mintzer had one goal each.

A different set of emotions permeated on the Loyola sideline and in the locker room as Coach Rubeor reflected on his playing and coaching career at Loyola Blakefield.

“It’s going to be really sad to leave Loyola,” said Rubeor, who is relocating to Boston with his wife and young family. “It’s a place that helped me grow up, and helped me to become a better player. My experience there is a large reason that I’m coaching right now.

“I’m certainly disappointed, and wish that it didn’t end this way, but I can leave knowing that I gave it my fullest effort. I’m not going to measure this on championships, I’m going to measure this on the relationships I made with these guys. If they grow up to be good men, I will continue to be proud of them.”

Hume finished with a hat-trick for Loyola and Koras had two assists to go with his goal. Ryan Dunn had two goals and an assist for the Dons, Alex Reid scored twice and Liam Bateman had a goal.

Calvert Hall Coach Bryan Kelly, despite the loss of two close friends this year (Hunley Ilardo), now turns his focus to Boys Latin in Friday night’s showdown. When asked if there were any concerns about the short turnaround, due to Tuesday’s game’s postpoment till Wednesday, Coach Kelly quickly replied, “Nope. We’re ready.”

MIAA A CONFERENCE LACROSSE SEMIFINAL
(at Johnny Unitas Stadium)
NO. 3 CALVERT HALL 13, NO. 4 LOYOLA 9
GOALS: LOY-Hume 3, Dunn 2, Reid 2, Bateman, J. Koras; CH-D. Kelly 4, J. Kelly 2, Herbert 2, Green 2, Sawyer, G. Mitchell, Swain, Connelly, Mintzer.
ASSISTS: LOY-J. Koras 2, Dunn, Elliott; CH-J. Kelly 5, Herbert 2, D. Kelly, Sawyer, Smith.
SAVES: LOY-Lorber 5; CH-Darragh 4.
HALF: Calvert Hall, 12-2.