Above: Senior BJ Farrare is one of the fastest and most versaltile two-way players in the nation
With eight senior starters in the lineup, McDonogh is a favorite for a fourth straight trip to the MIAA A title game
by Nelson Coffin
COACH: Andy Hilgartner, 10th year, 129-44
TOP RETURNERS: Jack Simmons, Sr., M (Virginia); BJ Farrare, Sr. LSM/SSM/D (Penn), Chris Smith, Sr., D (Navy); Jack Sweeney Sr., A (Navy).
KEY LOSS: Jack Parr (Brown).
TOP NEWCOMER: Andrew Hurdle, Sr., A/M (Bucknell).
OUTLOOK: If the best way to predict how a team will fare in a particular season is to look at the number of seniors on its roster, then McDonogh should be held in high regard.
Moreover, eight of those seniors started last year, and one, Hurdle, was a key performer on the 2016 championship squad.
That fact alone makes the Eagles a prime contender to earn a fourth consecutive MIAA A Conference title game berth — if not win its second crown in three years — under Hilgartner.
Sweeney and junior Liam Powderly give the attack a strong core that will only make Simmons, who scored an impressive 38 goals and added 10 assists in 2017, Hurdle and senior Griffin Catlett (Duke) all the more dangerous running on a talented midfield unit.
Defenders Farrare (52 ground balls) and Smith (34), patrolling the area in front of junior goalie Evan Long (Towson), will anchor a stout backline that held league opponents to less than eight goals per game last spring.
“We have a big senior class, so leadership should be a good strength along with experience,” Hilgartner said. “A lot of guys have been on the varsity for three or four years. We return our starting goalie and face-off man (Gable Braun) as well.”
The coach said that he hopes that an opening 12-7 loss to Philadelphia power Haverford School showed the Eagles that they can’t just show up and expect to win.
The Eagles have rattled off consecutive wins over Oxbridge Academy, Benjamin School and St. Thomas Aquinas on a spring break swing through Florida since then, taking some of the sting out of the earlier setback to the Fords.
“We have lost some significant talent over the past two years, so a concern is whether or not the guys that have been on the bench can step up and play at a high, consistent level, like those in the past,” Hilgartner said. “Our schedule gives us no breaks or easy games this year, so it will be revealing to see how we hold up under that kind of pressure. We also have had some off season injuries to key guys. Getting healthy as we move along will be critical to our success.”