No. 1 Cardinals run past St. Mary’s for 3-peat in MIAA A lacrosse; D. Kelly and G. Mitchell record hat tricks (VIDEO HERE!)

by Derek Toney

The whispers started a few weeks ago. As Calvert Hall College began a never seen before run through the MIAA A Conference lacrosse regular season, area lacrosse pundits started wondering where the Cardinals stood among the league’s all-time best. With each blowout win, those whispers grew louder.

Friday night, Calvert Hall gave a deafening proclamation. The top-ranked Cardinals defeated No. 2 St. Mary’s, 15-7, in the MIAA A title game in front of 3,231 at Towson University’s Unitas Stadium.

Senior midfielder Grant Mitchell finished with three goals and two assists, and Daniel Kelly recorded a hat trick for the Cardinals (17-1 overall). University of Maryland recruit Jack Sawyer added a goal and five assists.

The Towson school led wire-to-wire, completing arguably the most dominant season in MIAA A lacrosse history. The Cardinals outscored league opponents, 182-65 (including playoffs), becoming the first team to win three straight A titles.

Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly said making a run at history wasn’t the focus.

“This is a brand new team so we have a lot of guys who were never a part of that, but it’s a great honor,” said Kelly. “We never talked about outcomes, we talk about just doing your job and focusing the process. And have fun.”

“At the beginning of the season we felt really good about our team, we had a lot people coming back,” said Sawyer. “We did lose a couple of people, but I think we felt really strong. After the Hill game, we came together.”

The Cardinals’ only blemish was a non-league loss Canada’s Hill Academy, a prep school program with fifth year players. It set the table for an epic demolishment of the nation’s premier league.

They opened with a 12-5 victory over Boys’ Latin, in a rematch of the 2018 final. The Cardinals led by as many as 10 goals.

After victories over McDonogh School (15-11) and St. Mary’s (13-9; led 11-5 at one point), Calvert Hall hit hyper-drive. The Cardinals won their final six regular season decisions by a 94-27, including a 16-6 victory over then-No. 2 St. Paul’s School.

In that game, Calvert Hall led 9-0 after one and 15-2 in the third. The Cardinals pounded Loyola Blakefield in the regular season finale.

In the semifinals Tuesday, Calvert Hall slipped past the Dons, 18-4. The Cardinals led 14-2 late in the third quarter Friday.

Their vast depth, especially in the midfield and face-off, separated them. But their unselfishness defined them.

“Our offense is designed to make the extra pass and that’s being a good teammate, “ said Daniel Kelly. “We all love each other and doing anything each other.”

Being a supportive teammate was stressed by longtime Hall assistant Dave Huntley. Huntley died in December 2017. During last year’s playoff run, team captain Peter Ilardo’s dad, Harry, died after a long illness.

“Last year was heavy and it was incredible for us to do what we did with all that adversity,” said Bryan Kelly. “This year, I felt like these guys understood there’s things bigger than lacrosse and this is a game. It doesn’t define you as a person. These guys don’t worry about it they just play.”

In their penultimate game Friday, the Cardinals made it look easy. It was 5-0 late in the first quarter after Sawyer got a pass from Herbert and unloaded a rocket past St. Mary’s goalie Schmidt

Five different players accounted for The Hall’s first five tallies. Calvert Hall led 8-2 at halftime.

The Cardinals, who led 9-3 at halftime against Loyola before rolling off nine straight scores in the second half Tuesday, didn’t let up on the Saints in the second half. With Sawyer handing out four assists, Calvert Hall put up six tallies in a row for a 12-goal advantage with 1 minute, 45 seconds left in third quarter.

Cole Herbert finished with two goals and three assists, and Truitt Sunderland (two assists) and Josh Webber each tallied twice.

“No one cares who gets the points, as long as it’s a team win, everyone’s happy,” said Sawyer. “That’s the mentality we had all season.”

Scout Ripley scored three goals for St. Mary’s (12-6), and BJ Burlace finished with two goals and assist. The Saints, in their first final since taking the prize in 2015, gave Calvert Hall arguably its toughest game during the regular season, pulling to within two goals in the fourth quarter before the hosts answered twice to pull away.

The Saints had no answers Friday.

“Calvert Hall won games this year in the midfield. They’ve got horses who can run up and down the field all day long,” said St. Mary’s coach Victor Lilly. “Their athleticism is a problem.”

MIAA A Conference lacrosse championship

at Unitas Stadium

No. 1 Calvert Hall College 15, No. 2 St. Mary 7

St. Mary’s 1 1 1 4 – 7

Calvert Hall 5 3 6 1 – 15

Goals: St, Mary’s – Ripley 3, Burlace 2, Hockenberry, Krampf; Calvert Hall – G. Mitchell 3, D. Kelly 3, C. Herbert 2, Sunderland 2, Webber 2, Long, Sawyer, Stewart

Assists: St. Mary’s – Burlace, Hockenberry ; Calvert Hall – Sawyer 5, Herbert 3, G. Mitchell 2, Sawyer 5, Sunderland 2; C. Mitchell

Saves: St. Mary’s – Schmidt 14; Calvert Hall – Marshall 10

Shots: St. Mary’s 34; Calvert Hall 46

Faceoffs: St. Mary’s – 7-of-25; Calvert Hall 14-of-20

Clears: St. Mary’s 9-of-11; Calvert Hall 18-of-25

Extra-man opportunities: St. Mary’s 1-of-4; Calvert Hall 1-of-4

Groundballs: St. Mary’s – 16; Calvert Hall – 30

Turnovers: St. Mary’s – 14; Calvert Hall – 11