Loyola’s defense holds Archbishop Spalding to fewest goals of season for key MIAA A lacrosse win; Tolker scores four goals (VIDEO HERE!)
by Nelson Coffin
Loyola Blakefield’s defensive disruptions to Archbishop Spalding’s usually potent offense matched the turbulent weather during the Dons’ 9-8 victory in a MIAA A Conference lacrosse contest Friday afternoon in Towson.
With winds swirling between 20 to 35 mph — including gusts up to 60 mph in the Baltimore area that downed power lines, road signs and trees — the Dons matched the intensity of the weather with a defense that had Archbishop Spalding’s usually potent offense off-balance for most of the game.
“They gave us a lot of different looks on defense and messed with our rhythm,” Spalding coach Brian Phipps said. “That is a real credit to them.”
While the ‘D’ was at its best, Loyola’s offense did just enough to eke out what coach Gene Ubriaco called a “signature win.”
Henry Tolker led the way for Loyola (4-3 overall, 4-3 MIAA A) with four goals while Kevin Tucker added a pair of scores.
“It’s the first time that we sustained our compete-level for the whole game this season,” Ubriaco said. “We were playing free and loose and we played good team defense.”
The Cavaliers, who came into the contest averaging more than 13 goals per game, were handcuffed for the most part by a stout backline that included defensive middies Michael Haus and Jack Schoenwetter, poles Kevin Doyle, Tyler Franklin and Matt Rice and long-sticks Billy Dwan and AJ Larkin stationed in front of senior goalie Jack Webb.
Two of the Cavs’ goals came with a man-advantage, meaning that Loyola’s defense was at its strongest in six-on-six sets.
“They have a lot of good athletes, and they play really well together,” Dwan said. “We gave them a lot of different looks — we played a lot of zone. We had to be precise.”
The Dons never trailed after jumping out to a 1-0 lead on freshman attackman Mason Cook’s turnaround in the first minute.
Senior midfielder Josh Tang, who produced a game-high five points on three goals and two assists, answered to draw Spalding even for the only time of the game midway through the opening period.
Larkin’s finish after a long run ignited a 4-0 run that also featured both of Tucker’s goals and the first of Tolker’s for a 5-1 cushion with just under three minutes left in the first half.
Tang cut the lead briefly until senior attackman Charlie Koras responded with an extra-man goal to give Loyola a 6-2 buffer.
The Cavs (7-2, 5-2 MIAA A) capitalized on a one-minute non-releasable penalty to pull within 6-4 at the intermission on tallies by junior attackman Race Ripley and Tang.
The second half had a cat-and-mouse feeling to it, in the sense that every time Spalding seemed on the brink of netting the equalizer, Loyola would remain just out of reach.
“We’d get momentum, and then they’d put the ball in the back of the net,” Phipps said. “We could never catch them.”
All four times Spalding clawed back to within a goal, Loyola would go back up by two.
Junior midfielder Michael Weisshaar was the first Cav to get his team tantalizingly close early in the third stanza, only to have a response by Tucker to make it 7-5 heading into the final quarter.
After junior attackman Ryan Schrier converted a Tang feed to inch Spalding closer 29 seconds into the period, Tucker turned a nice pass from senior midfielder Matt Dixon into an 8-6 lead with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
It happened again when Tang and Tucker traded goals to push the margin to 9-7 three minutes later.
Although Spalding had seven minutes to get its offense rolling, the only retort it could muster was on senior attackman Finn Kelly’s rip with 25 seconds to go.
“Every time they were able to cut it to one, we were able to get another one to hold them off,” Ubriaco said. “This will do a lot for our confidence.”
Loyola will attempt to break a deadlock in the A Conference standings with Severn School when it travels to Anne Arundel County to take on the Admirals on Tuesday while the Cavs host three-time defending champion Calvert Hall College the same day.
LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD 9, ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 8
Goals: AS-Josh Tang 3, Michael Weisshaar 2, Race Ripley, Finn Kelly, Ryan Schrier; LB-Henry Tolker 4, Kevin Tucker 2, Mason Cook, Charlie Koras, AJ Larkin.
Assists: AS-Josh Tang 2, Ryan Schrier, Finn Kelly, Nicholas Guiterrez; LB-TJ Travante, Hayden Miller, Matt Dixon.
Saves: AS-Jake Oliver 6; LB-Jack Webb 5.
AS 1 3 1 3 — 8
LB 1 5 1 2 — 9