Calvert Hall’s lacrosse team has demonstrated, time, and again, an uncanny skill, courage and opportunism that has enabled it to not only snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but to remain unbeaten opposite Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference rivals.
As recently as last Friday, and, this past Tuesday, respectively, the top-ranked Cardinals had overcome deficits of four, and, one goal to vanquish No. 6 Loyola and No. 2 St. Paul’s.
But on Thursday at No. 3-ranked McDonogh, Calvert Hall faced a team that still was ailing from Friday’s one-goal, overtime upset loss at No. 5 Gilman.
And this time, a comeback from an eight-goal, third-quarter hole simply was not in the Cards.
Conor Morgan scored a game-high five goals to go with an assist, Keegan Michel had two goals and three assists, and Brenny Daly contributed three assists during an 11-7 victory for the Eagles, whose 8-0 run erased a 1-1 first-quarter
tie for a 9-1 lead early in the third quarter.
“We could never develop a pattern because they were always getting the ball. And then, if we got the ball, we would turn it over,” said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly, whose Cardinals beat Loyola, 10-6, after trailing, 5-1, and St. Paul’s, 9-6, after being down, 6-5.
“We’ve done that too many times and we hadn’t gotten burned by it enough,” said Kelly. “Today was a good example of us getting burned by not taking care of the ball. And they just took it to us. Their whole team played well.”
In victory, the Eagles improved to 11-2 overall, and, 7-1 in the MIAA A Conference’s Black Division, while the Cardinals slipped to 11-1, and, 7-1.
“Take nothing away from Gilman, because they really out-played us that day. But we hadn’t been playing great lacrosse. Losing to our rival was really hard, but we just want to keep getting better throuthout the year,” said Eagles’ coach Andy Hilgartner, a Calvert Hall graduate.
“That first half was pretty close to perfect as far as what we were trying to do. We were able to limit their transition where they’re really strong,” said Hilgartner. “We played great team defense, and our offense really moved well with the ball and without the ball. And with Calvert Hall’s athletic defense, that’s tough to do.”
Brady Faby accounted for both the game’s first goal and the last of McDonogh’s decisive run, each time being assisted by Michel. Faby made it, 1-0, Eagles by rifling a nifty behind-the-back, over-the-right-shoulder blast beyond Cardinals’ keeper Jack Brust (nine saves). Later, Faby converted Michel’s pass for the commanding lead at 10:51 of the third quarter.
The scoring spree was highlighed by a synergy between Morgan and Daly, from whom Morgan received passes for the Eagles’ third, sixth, and, seventh goals.
“Honestly, Morgan’s one of those guys who makes it easy,” said Daly. “You can kind of throw the ball at him and he’s just going to catch it and he’s going to finish it. He’s one of the best finishers that I’ve ever played with.”
Morgan converted the Eagles’ fourth goal off Will Hauver’s assist, and, later, fed Evan Glaser for the Eagles’ eighth goal.
“We’ve had a great chemistry since I’ve been playing with Brenny, and he told me this season that he was going to be looking for me. But today, we knew that Calvert Hall had one of the more difficult defenses that we would face,” said Morgan, part of an offense that converted on three of four extra man opportunities.
“But we knew some of their weaknesses and took advantage of them,” said Morgan. “So this a very rewarding win because Calvert Hall is in our division, and we’re in contention for first place right now.”
Morgan’s offensive performance even drew praise and respect from coach Bryan Kelly.
“I thought No. 35 [Morgan] was awesome. He can find the net. He’s a great shooter,” said Kelly. “He’s not like the guy who is necessarily going to beat you with a pass, but he shot the ball exceptionally well. He’s the guy that really stood out to me.”
Michel also keyed the Eagles’ 10-9 edge in faceoffs, this, opposite the Cardinals’ Stephen Kelly (two assists), who had won 14-of-17 draws and scooped 14 ground balls during Tuesday’s triumph over St. Paul’s.
“We knew Bones [Stephen Kelly] was going to be a very good faceoff guy, so we came out and we devised a plan for our wings to break immediately and to not give Calvert Hall any transition. I started to lose a couple later on, but luckily, Chris Davila had a great game.” said Michel.
“Chris was able to follow them out even when they were able to start a break,” said Michel. “All of the other times, we were able to push it forward and to create offensive opportunity for ourselves, so that was pretty huge.”
Although the Cardinals had a 3-2 edge in first-quarter draws, the Eagles had evened that statistic at 5-5 by halftime thanks to their winning of three straight, second-quarter faceoffs.
“I thought Stephen Kelly did a great job,” said Bryan Kelly, the uncle to Stephen and Patrick, who are cousins. “But I knew that this would be one of our tougher faceoff matches. Keegan Michel is a good player, and [Chris Davila] did a nice job.”
During a fourth quarter in which the Calvert Hall out-shot McDonogh, 20-2, Eagles’ senior goalie, Ben Falcone, made nine of his 15 stops.
Falcone made two of those saves to thwart extra man opportunities for Calvert Hall during a stretch when the Cardinals had taken 19 of the period’s 20 shots.
“In the beginning of the game, they had a few early shots that sort of woke me up and had me ready to play. Fourth quarter, I was really seeing the ball well, and I was able to zone in and make the next save,” said Falcone.
“Our defense had been really forcing them into taking saveable shots,” said Falcone. “I just sort of let those guys do their job and tried to just be ready to make the necessary save.”
Although the Cardinals had an advantage in overall shots, 36-27, they often sprayed their selections wide or took ill-advised chances thanks, in part, to the excellent defensive strategy employed by McDonogh assistant, Trey Whitty, and, executed by the Eagles.
“Once we got a lead, we felt like we could sit down and defend them. So our first goal was to try and stop their transition. They’re really good in transition, and we felt like if we could stop their transition that we could have a lot of success and a better chance of defending them,” said Whitty.
“They’re really talented, offensively, and so I thought we really got great play out of Bryson Green covering Patrick Kelly. I think that Patrick Kelly is one of the better attackmen in the league,” said Whitty. “Forcing them to play to shoot from the outside and play six-on-six is what we wanted to do. With that being said, they started to figure us out in the second half after we had played really well in the first half.”
After having scored four, and, three goals, respectively, against St. Paul’s on Tuesday, both the Cardinals’ Patrick Kelly and Carter Brown finished with two goals and an assist.
But the Cardinals were already down, 9-1, at 7:35 of the third quarter before Patrick Kelly got his first point, an assists on Carter Brown’s
second goal. Brown had been silenced after having tied the game at 1-1 with an unassisted goal at 7:22 of the first quarter.
In addition, the Cardinals scored only once in six extra man opportunities.
“The assignments were to shut off their good midfielders. I had Stephen Kelly, and Bryson Greene was shutting off Patrick Kelly,” said the Eagles’ Kyle DeVinney, who also credited sophomores Eric Levin and Danny Sweeney for their play on the wings.
“We were able to do a good job, in general, defensively,” said DeVinney. “We were able to shut them out in the beginning. We sort of fizzled near the end but we got the win. We usually get the job done. There’s not a lot of teams who can get by us.”
The Cardinals received a goal and an assist from Ryan Brown, one goal each from Brian Bolewicki and Matt Diehl. But they trailed, 4-1, after being out-shot, 12-5, in the first quarter, and, 22-10, in shots for an 8-1 scoring deficit at the intermission.
The Cardinals’ placement was better in the third quarter, where they out-shot the Eagles, 6-3, and, out-scored them, four goals to two.
But the Cardinals still trailed, 10-5, entering the fourth quarter, where Morgan’s opening goal off Michel’s final assist stretched the Eagles’ lead back to six (11-to-5) with 11:05 remaining in the game.
“We have character. I was proud of the way that our guys played in the second half. But you can’t spot a team 9-to-1. They’re just too good for that,” said Bryan Kelly.
“McDonogh was better than us. You’ve just got to give McDonogh the credit,” said Bryan Kelly. “They were the better team today. They just took it to us and they played better than we did.”
The Eagles, however, rematch the Cardinals on May 6 at Calvert Hall.
“We’ll see Calvert Hall again in two weeks,” said Hilgartner. “So hopefully, this will be contageous for the remainder of the year.”
McDonogh 11, Calvert Hall 7
Goals: CH- P. Kelly 2, C. Brown 2, R. Brown, Bolewicki, Diehl. McD- Morgan 5, Michel 2, Faby 2, Glaser, Valis.
Assists: CH-S. Kelly 2, R. Brown, P. Kelly, C. Brown. McD-Daly 3, Michel 3, Morgan, Hauver.
Saves: CH-Brust 8. McD- Falcone 15.
Half: McDonogh, 8-1.
Photos by Kitsie Michel