St. John’s Catholic Prep holds off Pallotti for first MIAA lacrosse championship; Alex Piriano nets hat trick



by James Peters

St. John’s Catholic Prep’s 7-6 victory over St. Vincent Pallotti in the MIAA C championship game Thursday evening can be summed up in two words: Mission accomplished.

A year after falling in the title match, the Frederick school (10-2) captured its first MIAA crown at U.S. Lacrosse’s Tierney Field in Sparks, largely behind 12 saves from junior goalkeeper Tyler Grove, a game-winning goal on a quick counterattack by senior attacker Max Piraino, and a hat trick by sophomore midfielder Alex Piraino.

“It means everything, especially after last year’s loss,” said Grove, whose squad had to fend off a few close-range misses by Pallotti in the fourth quarter, including a few in the final minute of the contest. “All throughout January and February, those cold practices really just led to this moment. It means everything to us.”

Trailing 5-3 at the half, Pallotti (11-4) appeared to make some timely adjustments that led to a couple of quick goals and forge a tie with 9 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third quarter. Mostly passive against St. John’s zone-style defense that featured Micah Glover at the top and Kevin Langley and Robert Cortes flanking either side of the goal in the first half, the Laurel school fired off eight shots in the third quarter.

The effort produced a loose ball goal by sophomore attacker Robert Mitchell, who netted a game-high four goals, and a fastbreak score by Aamir Young off a pass from Tye Wiggins.

 “We worked on that a lot this week: scoring one on one,” said Panthers coach Kirk Dodson, who’s slated to return all of his starters from this year’s squad next spring. “Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. These boys came out and gave it the best effort the whole time.  We just came up a little short.

“…It’s hard to sustain (the momentum gained in the third quarter),” added Dodson. “We hit them hard in the third quarter. I looked at my athletic director and said, ‘We’ve got them now.’ Then they got that sixth goal and came back on us.”

That score came off the stick of Alex Piraino, who fired past Pallotti goalkeeper Jace Wiggins (six saves) with 1:08 left in the quarter. All three of Alex Piraino’s goals came off one-on-one moves that ended with long shots.

 Young had a chance to tie the contest twice in the first five minutes of the second half, but one shot hit the post and another was waived off for being in the crease. The Vikings turned that second missed opportunity into what turned out to be the game-winning goal by Max Piraino on a precision counterattack with 6:58 left in the contest.

“The guy was in the crease; we took advantage of it,” Piraino said. “My man Joe (Novak) got the ball to midfield for a 4-on-3 break. He gives it to Keller (Neuman). He gives it to me, slide it behind the keeper.

“We wanted to avenge last year. Us seniors wanted to win this one, and I’m so glad we did.” 

Mitchell quickly closed the gap to one with 6:22 left on what was another spinning shot in traffic, his third such goal of the contest, but near misses by Mitchell, Young, and Tye Wiggins in the closing 46.8 seconds helped the Vikings seal the win.

St. John’s secured that 5-3 halftime advantage behind two one-on-one goals from Alex Piraino and one score each from Dominic Rosone, William Kavanagh, and Max Piraino. 

Kavanagh’s strike gave the Vikings a 5-2 advantage with 2:32 left in the half, securing a deflected shot out of the air and tossed the ball into the goal similar to a basketball stick back.

Mitchell, however, ended the first half with his second goal with 1.9 seconds remaining. He wheeled through two defenders and then converted a high, hard shot.

The Panthers got even in the second half, but St. John’s Catholic responded. The Vikings won, 10-7, in the regular season match two weeks ago.

“They’ve got our number. It’s four times in a row they’ve beaten us. We’re going to get them one of these days,” said Dodson.

Three hundred and sixty-four days after losing to Key School in the final (12-6), St. John’s Catholic made history Thursday.

“It’s huge for this school; it’s huge for Frederick County,” said St. John’s coach Matt Williams . “Frederick County is a huge, growing area, a lacrosse hotbed, and to bring this MIAA (title), this prestigious conference, home, it just means the world.” 

MIAA C Conference championship

at Tierney Field, U.S. Lacrosse

St. John’s Catholic Prep 7, St. Vincent Pallotti 6

Pallotti 1 2 2 1 – 6

St. John’s 3 2 1 1 – 7

GOALS: PA – Mitchell 4, Young, T. Wiggins. SJ – A. Piraino 3, M. Piraino 2, Kavanagh, Rosone. 

ASSISTS: PA – T. Wiggins. SJ – M. Piraino, Rosone. 

SAVES: PA – J. Wiggins 6. SJ – Grove 12.