Led by a strong junior class, the Cardinals are ranked 13th in one preseason national poll; MIAA title hopes will receive early tests against Mount St. Joseph and McDonogh

by Nelson Coffin

Having generated a generous amount of preseason buzz, the Calvert Hall College High School soccer team will be tested early by two key rivals in the opening week of the 20-game MIAA A Conference season.

The Cardinals will hit the road to face the lone undefeated team from last year’s COVID-shortened, one-off Catholic League campaign, Mount St. Joseph, at 4 p.m. on Aug. 25.

Two days later, they will host three-time defending MIAA A Conference champ McDonogh School for a 7 p.m. match under the lights at Paul Angelo Russo Stadium.

McDonogh did not have a season in 2020 and Calvert Hall was unable to upend the Gaels last fall.

“It’s a good way to open the season with a challenge,” senior forward Riley Organt said. “Both of our losses were to St. Joe last year and McDonogh is always a challenge.”

While neither outcome will determine whether Calvert Hall’s ultimate goal of claiming its first A Conference title since 2016 can be realized, performing well in the two encounters could set the tone for a successful season for a junior-laden squad blessed with depth and talent.

Coach Rich Zinkand said that the Cardinals have already talked about what lays ahead for a team ranked 13th in the country and first in the state and Mid-Atlantic by prepsoccer.net.

“We have to learn to handle high expectations,” said Zinkand, a forward on Calvert Hall’s 1985 and 1986 Maryland Scholastic Association championship sides under legendary coach Bill Karpovich and a former Towson State University performer under longtime coach Frank Olszewski.

One of just four seniors on the team, David Peters will play up top and be expected to provide leadership for the Cardinals.

With only four seniors — Organt and fellow forward David Peters, backup goalie Jack Langford and defender Will Andruss — on hand to steady the squad, a slew of juniors will be the main engine moving the Cardinals forward.

The 11th grade contingent begins in the back with athletic keeper Nate Jones being protected by Josh Nagy, a Navy lacrosse recruit, Ben Ramsey and Gabe Glikin, who pairs with Andruss at outside back.

The midfield will be manned by juniors Cody Angelini, Tyler Flynn and Ben Madore, with plenty of help from sophomores Rocco Pastore, a center back, and Ryan Henneman.

Peters, Organt, junior Richie Monath and sophomore Ryan Belal will play up top for a team that gained some valuable experience while going 4-2 last fall.

“It was great for our sophomores to get in six games last year,” Zinkand said.

Still, in a competitive league that also features archrival Loyola Blakefield, Gilman School, Boys’ Latin School, St. Paul’s School, Concordia Preparatory School, John Carroll School, Archbishop Curley and Archbishop Spalding, the Cardinals’ journey will undoubtedly be an arduous one at times.

“There could be a lot of pressure this season,” Peters conceded. “But if we play like we know how to play, we should be fine.”

And there are several ways to accomplish —and score — their goals, according to Andruss.

“Expectations are high, so we have to stay positive and have a sense of urgency,” he said. “We have to work hard and can’t come out lazy.”

Zinkand is on the same page with his players.

Calvert Hall will depend on Richie Monath, also a member of the junior class, to provide play-making ability on the offensive end of the field.

“It’s a great league,” he said. “We need to compete every day, and if we’re not prepared for every game, we won’t do well. We all need to buy in.”

A major strength, the coach said, is that the Cardinals are adept at possessing the ball and creating ample opportunities to score.

“We just have to finish our chances in the final third,” he added.

Depth, Zinkand continued, “should be a big advantage for us.”

So will having Jones as the last line of defense.

“He’s growing into his (6-foot-2) body,” the coach said. “He has great instincts and is really coming on.”

Langford waiting in the wings is also a comfort.

“He has a great attitude and is a mature young man,” Zinkand said. “He’s very even-keeled.”

Pictured above: Midfielder Cody Angelini is part of an outstanding junior class which is the core of Calvert Hall’s nationally ranked 2021 soccer team.