Ryan Conrad, 2015, Loyola Blakefield
by Nelson Coffin
To say the least, any team fortunate enough to have Ryan Conrad on its roster usually fared pretty well in terms of competing for championships.
Driven and dangerous, his ability to create favorable situations for him and his teammates — and then capitalize on them — was second to none at Loyola Blakefield and the University of Virginia.
A three-sports star for the Dons, the 6-foot, 190-pound standout excelled on the soccer pitch, basketball court and lacrosse field.
He captained all three squads his senior year for Loyola, and was named Male Athlete of the Year in 2015 by the Baltimore Sun and Towson Times while also receiving the nod from the Towson Times in 2014.
Conrad led the Dons to a pair of MIAA A Conference soccer championships, including his senior year when he netted both goals in a 2-0 upset of McDonogh School after doing the same in a 2-0 win over Gilman School in the 2012 finale.
The 2014 VSN Male Soccer Player of the Year finished his career on the pitch with 32 career goals, and had had college soccer coaches inquiring about him playing the sport at the next level.
He totaled 13 goals and eight assists for the 15-4-1 Dons, who finished No. 2 in the final VSN Top 20 rankings in his final soccer season.
As a point guard on the basketball team, he was a steadying influence that helped Loyola keep its head above water in the MIAA A Conference.
Lacrosse, though, is the sport that he is most noted for — with good reason and why he has been selected as the VSN No. 1 Boys Lacrosse Midfielder of the Decade.
After all, he was tabbed as the No. 1 recruit in the country for each class year by Inside Lacrosse, concluding his career at Loyola with an impressive 191 points (104 goals, 87 assists) and 207 ground balls as a do-it-all midfielder who found a slew of ways to slay rivals.
“Being the No. 1 recruit was a lot to live up to,” Conrad admitted. “It was a lot to handle and live up to, but I had to hold myself personally accountable. I took it as a personal attack if I didn’t live up to it. I worked my tail off, so that made it easy to stay humble.”
Rival coaches knew what they were up against when confronting Conrad.
“He was the best middle in our league,” said former St. Paul’s School and current Towson High coach Rick Brocato, who played on the same Towson High lacrosse team with Ryan’s dad, Bob Conrad. “He was also a great defensive player who could match up with anybody. He was physically strong and very fast. On offense, he could see a play develop before it happened — and he could do that on defense, too. He valued picking up a tough ground ball as much as scoring a goal. He was just a terrific player.”
By his sophomore year Conrad was a mainstay on a team that underachieved all season before going on a postseason tear that ended with a momentous 10-9 upset of previously unbeaten Boys’ Latin School in the championship game.
Incredibly, BL bolted out to a 6-0 advantage before the Dons came roaring back to tie the score with 2:44 left in regulation on Conrad’s second goal of the game.
“We just hadn’t had the season we hoped for,” said Conrad, currently working in finance in New York City. “We had high expectations, but BL had handled us during the regular season.”
In fact, Loyola finished the season with a 3-6 league record after losing to arch-rival Calvert Hall in the final A Conference regular season game — only to earn a playoff berth after Mount St. Joseph eliminated St. Mary’s from contention with a double-overtime triumph.
“That was a tough loss (to the Cardinals),” said Conrad, who recently finished his third year playing in the Premier Lacrosse League. “But when coach (Jack Crawford) came into the locker room and said, ‘We’re still in it,’ that reinvigorated us. We had to reinvent ourselves. We felt like we were playing with house money. We had heard that BL had printed t-shirts with 20-0 on them. We came in with the same mindset we had in the playoffs, and once we got a goal, we started to play free and were able to squeak it out.”
Conrad showed his scoring prowess in his final high school game at the 2015 Under Armour Senior All-America Game, earning MVP honors by producing three goals, three assists, five ground balls and six face-off wins for the victorious South All-Stars.
After his freshman year at Virginia, in which he appeared in 14 of 15 games for the Cavaliers, he played for the US U19 national team at the FIL Lacrosse World Championships and scored the game winner — and his second of the game — with just eight seconds remaining in regulation to top Canada, 13-12, for the title.
It was dé·jà vu all over again for Conrad, whose team found itself staring at a 6-0 deficit before barely recovering in time for his last-second heroics.
“Jared Bernhardt beat his guy down the alley and made a simple pass to Simon Mathias,” Conrad said. “Mathias saw that I was open and I was able to finish.”
There would be plenty more room for clutch plays at UVA, although the Cavs were transitioning from legendary coach Dom Starsia to newcomer Lars Tiffany.
He led the Wahoos with 63 ground balls as a sophomore, notching 11 in a win over Cornell University in which he also scored three times and added an assist. He finished the campaign with 17 goals and 11 feeds.
After missing most of his junior year with an injury, Conrad bounced back in a big way for his final stint in Charlottesville that ended with the Cavs hoisting the NCAA Division I championship trophy by edging Yale University, 13-9, in the title tilt.
Posting big numbers (31 goals, 18 assists and 95 ground balls), Conrad was a First Team All-America selection, the ACC tournament MVP and served as a captain for the second consecutive time.
“My senior year was my proudest accomplishment,” he said. “We were in disarray and we underachieved when I first got to UVA, and we had a rough start to my senior year, too. We were 1-2 and were having culture problems. It was really stressful. As captains, we had to set some strict alcohol rules.”
By the end of the season and into the playoffs, the Cavs responded accordingly with several key late-game comebacks to secure the championship.
“I can always point back to the adversity we went through,” Conrad added. “By the end of the year we were out-willing people. We were very confident going against Yale. We just couldn’t be beat at that point.”