Hilgartner steadies McDonogh to MIAA A crown, wins VSN’s Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year honor




by Derek Toney

A year after bitter disappointment, McDonogh School’s boys lacrosse got redemption this spring. 

How the Eagles and coach Andy Hilgartner, VSN’s Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year, did it was a riches to rags to riches saga.  

The Eagles (13-6 overall) won the MIAA A Conference championship for the first time since 2016. They accomplished the feat, defeating three higher seeded teams.

McDonogh’s run seemed unlikely two weeks before. The Eagles were spiraling with three losses in four games, blowing a fourth quarter lead at Calvert Hall College and were thoroughly outplayed by St. Paul’s School at home.

Hilgartner, whose team was preseason No. 2 nationally by Inside Lacrosse and top-ranked locally by VSN, kept a positive outlook.

“At heart we’re all teachers. In life, you’re going to have your ups-and-downs, you’re going to have setbacks,” Hilgartner said. “In my mind as a teacher, this isn’t necessarily bad…I realized whatever happens it was going to be incredible for our guys and impact them in a positive way moving forward. 

There wasn’t panic from our coaches and I don’t think from our seniors. Progress is not a straight line.”

The Owings Mills school, which defeated rival Gilman School in the regular season finale to secure the No. 5 seed, beat Archbishop Spalding (fourth-seed) in the opening round. In the semifinals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, McDonogh ended top-seeded Boys’ Latin School’s title reign on a score at the buzzer.

The Eagles completed their run with a 14-8 victory over No. 2 seed St. Mary’s in the final. McDonogh claimed No. 1 in the final VSN Top 20.

Last year, McDonogh had a perfect season ruined by Boys’ Latin in the MIAA A semifinals. The Lakers, the No. 5 seed, went on to win the crown. 

“It was so gratifying because you see the effort the kids put in and their willingness to do whatever it takes to win,” said Hilgartner. “We had enough motivation from within. There’s so much respect for every coach, player, team in our league. To win it is always special, It doesn’t matter whether you’re undefeated or the fifth seed.”

Hilgartner, who was assisted by Joe Benson, Travis Holmes, James Margraff, Rob Scherr and Austin Stewart, joins Calvert Hall’s Bryan Kelly (five MIAA A titles) as active league coaches with at least two championships. 

Hilgartner, a 1989 Calvert Hall and 1993 Michigan State graduate, is 179-62 in 14 seasons at McDonogh (290-96 overall in 22 seasons). 

“It’s been an amazing place. It’s a never ending process,” said Hilgartner. “I’m proud of all of our alums…we stand on their shoulders. They all contributed to building the culture.”