Nation’s No. 1 team escapes Baltimore undefeated with a one-goal victory

by Dave Larkin
The McDonogh boys lacrosse team played inspired lacrosse and gave national power Culver Academy all they could handle, Thursday, before falling to the No. 1 nationally ranked Eagles from Indiana, 8-7, in Owings Mills.
Sophomore attackman Dane Swanson led McDonogh with four goals, and senior midfielder Andrew Hurdle took over face-off duties in the second half to neutralize Culver’s exceptional junior face-off specialist Alec Stathakis.
“Andrew has been running first midfield for us all year and hasn’t faced-off since his freshman year,” said McDonogh head coach Andy Hilgartner. “We put him in to face-off against Hereford in the second half, and he did a great job. I thought he was tremendous today.”
With Stathakis dominating the X in the first half, Culver peppered the McDonogh cage with a flurry of shots, some from very close range. Evan Long was up to the task however, making a series of spectacular saves.
“He kept us in the game,” said Hilgartner. “When we had those errors, he was able to bail us out. He was strong for sure.” The game was tied 4-4 at the half.
The third quarter was highlighted by both squads exhibiting outstanding stick-work and passing, excellent goal-tending, and a series of clean clears. Senior middie Alex Simmons scored the quarter’s only goal to put Culver up by one.
An exciting see-saw battle erupted in the fourth, with Culver leading 7-5 with 7:06 left. McDonogh’s Swanson stepped up with back-to-back goals to even the score at seven, with 4:57 remaining. With 1:47 left, Culver’s senior midfielder Jake Stevens scored with a waist-high rocket to put his team up 8-7.
With McDonogh (4-3) in possession, Hilgartner called a timeout with 42 seconds left. The Eagles responded with a flurry of open shots as time ticked away, but none found their mark.
Hilgartner was pleased with his team’s overall effort against undefeated Culver.
“I’m encouraged by today. We’ve come a long way since our loss to Haverford on March 9th. We’ve said all along that we are focused on preparing for St. Mary’s, and that’s what we are trying to do.”
Culver head coach Jon Posner pointed to his teams rigorous conditioning program as the key to this week’s success.
“They are a resilient bunch. We ask the boys to do a lot when they are tired, and that’s what we had to do today.”
The win over McDonogh ended Culver’s grueling Mid-Atlantic trip, as they racked up five victories in only seven days against some of the areas top teams. Posner summed up the trip as “Sherman’s march through Baltimore.”