No. 7 Loyola stifles St. Paul’s in low-scoring thriller; Tucker nets game-winner late (VIDEO HERE!)

Loyola’s Chase Llewellyn (left) is defended by St. Paul’s Chad Vasquenza during Friday’s MIAA A Conference lacrosse contest. The seventh-ranked Dons withstood a second half rally by the No. 2 Crusaders, scoring the final two goals in regulation for a 6-5 victory at Tullai Field in Brooklandville.

by Nelson Coffin

There’s no way to sugar-coat the obvious fact that No. 7 Loyola Blakefield and second-ranked St. Paul’s School were mired in a defensive battle on Friday afternoon in an MIAA A Conference lacrosse showdown between evenly-matched teams vying for a playoff spot.

After all, the two teams combined for just 11 goals, an unusual — if not unprecedented — total in the newly-initiated and supposedly faster-paced shot-clock era.
In the end, though, it still took a slick offensive move by Loyola sophomore midfielder Kevin Tucker to provide the difference with his first goal of the game — and first game-winner of his brief career at Blakefield — with less than two minutes remaining in regulation to secure a 6-5 victory for the Dons.
“It really was a grind,” Tucker said. “Both offenses struggled today.”
That is, until Tucker maneuvered around his defender and freed his hands just enough to unleash a stick-side high rocket that splashed the net.
“I beat my man, and then I was just trying to put it in the goal,” he added.
Tucker, fellow sophomore Henry Tolker, senior midfielder Alex Breschi and junior midfielder Jack Koras, who notched a game-high three goals, gave Loyola just enough punch to improve to 9-5 overall and 6-3 in league play.
Even so, it was the Loyola defense, featuring a scintillating 10-save first half by junior goalie Kevin Ellington, which set the tone early by blanking the Crusaders (10-4, 6-3 MIAA A) until St. Paul’s sophomore midfielder Noah Chizmar converted a feed from senior attackman Andrew Milani early in the second half.
By that time, Koras had ripped in a pair of goals and Breschi had another, so Loyola had taken a 3-0 advantage into the intermission and was still ahead, 3-1.
The lead did not last long because the Crusader wings swiped the ensuing face-off and whipped the ball to senior attackman Troy Barthelme, who found Milani to make it, 3-2.
Senior attackman Tyler Harry then ripped in a lefty liner to deadlock the score at 3-all with just under nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Tolker’s extra-man goal just over a minute later put the Dons back on top, 4-3, an edge that would last until Barthelme tied it from doorstep on a nick look from Harry.
The score remained even until Loyola sophomore Matt Dixon spotted Koras rounding the crease for a clean finish to forge the final tie with just over six minutes left.
Tucker did the rest, cashing in after the Crusaders turned the ball over for the third time in the period — mistakes that did not sit well with St. Paul’s coach Trey Whitty.
“You have to catch and throw,” Whitty lamented. “We have to work on fundamentals — we didn’t have those today.”
While Whitty praised Ellington for his play, he said that his offense needed to be more accurate.
“We had eight-to-10 great chances early,” he said. “You have to bury those shots in the A Conference.”
Loyola coach Gene Ubriaco was thrilled with how well Ellington, nicknamed “K-9” by his teammates, and senior Jarrod King and junior defensive mates Parker Keeney, Dave Lamarca and Phil Florenzo acquitted themselves after getting burned in a 14-13 overtime loss to Gilman last Saturday.
“We worked really, really hard defensively,” Ubriaco said. “And today, we did it to a ’T.’ “
The Dons will host archival and No. 1 Calvert Hall College on Tuesday in the regular-season finale while St. Paul’s will travel to meet fifth-ranked Boys’ Latin School — for the 102nd time — the same day.

Kevin Tucker helped Loyola take a major step towards a MIAA A postseason spot Friday. The junior’s goal with 1 minute, 41 seconds remaining in regulation was the decisive tally as the Dons improved to 6-3 in league play with top-ranked Calvert Hall College up next in the regular season finale Tuesday afternoon.

Calvert Hall, which remained undefeated in league play (9-0) with a 15-3 romp of 11th-ranked Archbishop Spalding Friday, has the top-seed wrapped up and No. 3 St. Mary’s (7-2) has the No. 2 seed. Both have a bye into the league semifinals May 14 at Towson University.

Loyola, St. Paul’s, Boys’ Latin (5-3), Gilman (5-3) and McDonogh School (5-4)  are vying for the final four postseason slots. Loyola and St. Paul’s are in favorable position for a berth, with Saturday’s winner between Gilman and Boys’ Latin likely securing a spot.
Goals: LB-Jack Koras 3, Alex Breschi, Henry Tolker, Kevin Tucker; SP-Tyler Harry 2, Troy Barthelme, Noah Chizmar, Andrew Milani.
Assists: LB-Dave Lamarca, Chase Llewellyn, Cooper Motley, Matt Dixon; SP-Andrew Milani, Troy Barthelme, Connor Stein, Tyler Harry.
Saves: LB-Kevin Ellington 13; SP-Jamie Grant 9.