St. Paul’s earns the top seed but the race to Hayfields is wide open

Special to VSN

With the regular season now complete, the seven teams competing for the MIAA A Conference varsity golf title will move into the post-season next week with hopes of reaching the championship final at Hayfields Country Club on Saturday, May 15.

The championship venue was moved to Hayfields this spring due to Caves Valley’s continued preparations for this August’s BMW Championship, part of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs.

St. Paul’s and Gilman both finished 10-2 in the regular season, with each squad defeating the other once, but the Crusaders finished as the No. 1 seed due to conference tie-breaking procedures.

St. Paul’s will enjoy a first-round bye and will play the lowest-seeded quarterfinal winner in the semi-finals at their home venue, Baltimore Country Club.

Crusaders’ head coach Paul Bernstorf points to his team’s senior laden roster as one of the main reasons for an impressive 9-match winning streak to close out the regular season. “We really pulled together after a 1-2 start,” he says. “I’m proud of our senior leadership (Burkom, Guy and Wille) and the way we took each match one at a time.”

Gilman will host No. 7 seed McDonogh at Elkridge Country Club in their playoff opener. The Greyhounds won both regular season encounters in convincing fashion.

Gilman head coach Mike Wallace says the 2021 regular season took on a different tone after last year’s canceled campaign due to Covid-19. “The most important thing for our student-athletes is that we even had a spring season,” says Wallace. “We’re looking forward to an exciting playoff week together.”

Archbishop Spalding finished as the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 seed Mount Saint Joseph in another quarterfinal match-up. The two squads split their 2-game regular season series with each winning on their home course.

“It’s been a season of survival for the Cavaliers,” says longtime Spalding head coach Pete VanZandt. “We had some difficulties obtaining course time due to Covid and our No. 1 player missed the last couple of weeks of the season due to an injured back. Our quarterfinal match against MSJ and my good friend (coach) Mike Dooley should be very exciting.”

The other quarterfinal match-up has No. 5 seed Loyola Blakefield visiting No. 4 seed Calvert Hall at Country Club of Maryland. The Cardinals used a tie at Spalding in the season’s next-to-last match and a home win over McDonogh on May 4 to secure the 4th seed. Loyola was the only team besides St. Paul’s to beat Gilman in the regular season. The two squads split their season series with each winning at home.

“We had a bit of an uneven regular season, but I was proud of the way we played in the last week to get the 4th seed and the home playoff match in the first round,” says Calvert Hall head coach Drew Forrester. “Every team probably has the same story, but we were literally three putts away — in three different matches — from being 8-4 instead of 5-6-1. In our 12 hole match format, there is an extremely fine line between winning and losing. One putt on the final green can swing the whole match in your favor or against you.”

Head Coach Mike Messina’s Loyola Dons set up Monday’s showdown with Calvert Hall by beating Mount Saint Joseph in their final regular season match.

“It’s been a rewarding season for Loyola,” says Messina. “We started the year with a talented, albeit young and inexperienced team. It has been so much fun watching these young men transform into gritty competitors. To have our first playoff match vs. a fine Calvert Hall team is a dream come true. It couldn’t have been scripted any better. Both teams (and coaches) are always excited for this storied rivalry.”

Forrester’s Cardinals will likely start five underclassmen on Monday. He agrees about the excitement level of the Calvert Hall-Loyola encounter.

“Mike (Messina) has done a great job with the Loyola program over the last few years and we’re very aware of how talented they are this season,” the Cardinals 9th year head coach states. “We’ve talked a lot this season about big moments and big shots and how the winning team always seems to hit them at the right time. Our plan is to hit a bunch of them next week and see where it takes us.”