Weisshaar’s fourth quarter breakout push Cavaliers to first championship final (VIDEO HERE!)
by Gary Adornato and Derek Toney
The nightcap of Tuesday’s MIAA A Conference lacrosse semifinal double-header, at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, featured a wounded but determined champion trying to push past a rising power learning how to win on the big stage. The result was a playoff classic with second-seeded Archbishop Spalding earning its playoff stripes by edging three-time reigning champion Calvert Hall College, 9-8.
The win puts Spalding (12-2 overall) in the MIAA A title game for the first time as the Cavaliers advanced to play fifth-seeded Boys’ Latin School, on Friday at Navy. The Lakers reached the championship game with an equally thrilling 13-12 win over top-seeded McDonogh School.
The key stretch of the game came in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter, after Calvert Hall had scored three consecutive goals to erase a 7-4 Spalding lead and tie the contest. Spalding, having never reached this stage of the post-season before, could have easily faded.
But the Cavs responded like the champions they hope to be.
Junior Michael Weisshaar responded with two consecutive goals to give Spalding a 9-7 lead and the Cavs survived a late Calvert Hall score to claim the one goal victory.
“It was crunch time,” said Weisshaar of his performance in the clutch. “What other good player doesn’t want the ball at the end of the game.”
Weisshaar, who finished with three goals and an assist, has waited a long time to be in this position.
“It was just so surreal,” he said. “I grew up wanting this so bad and now that it’s happening, it’s a dream come true.”
Spalding coach Brian Phipps had high praise for his junior star.
“He has the skill and athleticism, and the want to get there,” said Phipps. “He’s a superstar in the making, for sure.”
The teams traded goals and the lead for much of the game. Both squads were a little tight in the early going and the first quarter ended in a 1-1 tie, with Mic Kelly scoring the first of his five goals for Calvert Hall and Josh Tang netting the first of his two scores for the Cavaliers.
The second quarter featured two lead changes and three ties as the teams went to intermission in a 4-4 standstill. In the third quarter, Weisshaar pushed the Cavs back in front with a blast. Race Ripley (two assists) then fed Tang, for an extra-man goal, and senior Finn Kelly put away an assist from Weisshaar to give the Cavaliers a 7-4 lead.
Thomas Strong got one back for the Cardinals (7-5) before the end of the third quarter. Ethan Long then scored to open the final quarter and Mic Kelly added his fourth goal to tie the game once again, at 7-7 with 6:37 to play. After Weisshaar’s final two scores, Mic Kelly fired into an open net, from near midfield, with 52.1 seconds to play, to cut the deficit to one, but Calvert Hall never regained possession.
“We came here to get two wins,” said Phipps. “When the playoffs started, we said we had to win 12 quarters. We had to go 12-0, so now we have to go four more. It’s the MIAA. Today, one team went up and the other battled back. No lead is ever safe in this league and that’s what makes it exciting and this venue is awesome.”
Although there were a few mistakes, he wishes his team could have back, Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly praised the effort of his squad.
“I thought we played very well,” said Kelly, whose sixth-seeded squad defeated No. 3 seed St. Mary’s in Saturday’s quarterfinals. “Defensively, we were awesome. We just gave them too many extra possessions, with not backing up the goal a couple of times. You can’t give a team extra possessions. When we had the ball on offense we did some good things, but we just didn’t get the ball enough. Overall, our kids played hard and we did the best we could. I couldn’t be more proud of my team. We competed really hard.”
Spalding, which joined the MIAA A in 2004, won its first playoff game Saturday. Tuesday, the Cavaliers defeated Calvert Hall, the gold standard in the nation’s toughest boys’ lacrosse league.
Now, they’re 48 minutes from making history.
“We’re battle tested. We’ve played the best teams in the country and we’ve proved we’re one of them,” said Phipps in the locker room, as his assistants talked to the players about starting to get mentally and physically ready for the biggest game in program’s history Friday. “We have the confidence in ourselves, that if we play as us and a team, we can beat anybody.”
MIAA A CONFERENCE LACROSSE SEMIFINAL
at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium
ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 9, CALVERT HALL COLLEGE 8
GOALS: Calvert Hall – Mic Kelly 5, Ethan Long 2, Thomas Strong 1; Spalding – Michael Weisshaar 3, Josh Tang 2, Nicholas Gutierrez 2, Fin Kelly, Ryan Schrier
ASSISTS: Calvert Hall – Mic Kelly, Patrick Droney; Spalding – Race Ripley 2, Weisshaar
SAVES: Calvert Hall – Tommy Lubin 8; Spalding – Jake Oliver 8
CH 1 3 1 3 — 8
AS 1 3 3 2 — 9