Cardinals build huge lead, holds off Loyola in MIAA A lax regular season finale; Dons gain No. 4 playoff seed

Tommy Lubin (left), Jordan Wray and Ethan Long helped Calvert Hall end its regular season on a high note Tuesday afternoon. The Cardinals defeated rival Loyola Blakefield, 12-11, and will host John Carroll School in the opening round of the MIAA A Conference lacrosse playoffs Thursday afternoon.

by Dave Larkin

Trailing 10-1 at halftime, the Loyola Dons lacrosse team looked like a defeated team as they trudged toward their halftime huddle Tuesday.

The Dons had no answer for Calvert Hall’s scintillating cut-and-pass offense or their smothering defense. For all in attendance at Russo Stadium, it sure looked like a blowout.

Then the second half started.

The roles were quickly reversed when the Dons found their footing on defense and employed a relentless fast-break attack to mount a comeback for the ages. Calvert Hall found its footing as well, securing a 12-11 victory in the MIAA A Conference regular season finale for both.

The Cardinals’ victory combined with Boys’ Latin’s victory over rival St. Paul’s Tuesday, left those victors and Loyola tied at 6-4 for fourth in the standings. With no head-to-head tiebreaker (Loyola defeated BL Sunday, and BL defeated Calvert Hall two weeks ago), the next tiebreaker was head-to-head against top three teams in the standings – McDonogh, Spalding and St. Mary’s.

Loyola, based on its win over Spalding, gains the No. 4 seed followed by Boys’ Latin and Calvert Hall. The Dons will host BL in a quarterfinal match Saturday afternoon.

The Dons, impressive Sunday in their win at BL, found their groove Tuesday after falling behind nine goals, cutting the lead to 11-9 with 4 minutes, 58 seconds left in regulation. Cardinal senior attack Ethan Long provided just enough cushion when he responded from 15 feet with an underhand scoop shot to put the Cardinals up 12-9 with 4:02 left.

Dons’ freshman attack Mason Cook cut the lead to 12-11, but it was too little too late with only 2.7 seconds remaining.

“It’s a rivalry game,” said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly. “It’s Loyola and Calvert Hall. We knew they wouldn’t quit, and they didn’t. They’re a very good senior heavy team. They have a lot of character and a great coaching staff.”

“The second half really showed what kind of character this team has,” said Loyola coach Gene Ubriaco. “We were pretty locked into the fourth (playoff) seed, but obviously it’s Loyola Calvert Hall so we were really playing for that. Even this loss will give us some good momentum going into the playoffs.”

Calvert Hall junior midfielder Jordan Wray poured in three first half goals, while sophomore attack Shuey Kelly, junior midfielder EJ Vasile, and Long contributed two each. The Cards were up 6-0 after the first quarter, and were leading 7-0 when Loyola senior attackman Henry Tolker sprinted across the crease and converted a quick pass from senior attack Charlie Koras to finally put the Dons on the board with 5:32 left in the second.

Trailing 11-4 with 10:47 remaining, Loyola senior middie Kevin Tucker jump started the Dons fast-break transition game, scoring three times himself, some in spectacular fashion.  The Dons were on a roll, the Cards were reeling, and the end to end action was pure MIAA A Conference lacrosse. Tolker’s sidearm missile pulled the Dons to within 11-9, sending his squad and their fans into a frenzy that seemed improbable if not impossible in the first half.

Tucker’s final goal, a jumpshot from the right alley, made it 12-10 with 2:40 remaining. A superb save by Calvert Hall junior goalie Tommy Luben, and a key ground ball by Shuey Kelly helped run off enough clock to seal the victory.

Coach Kelly liked Lubin’s outstanding first half play, and his late game grit.

“Lubin played really well, and had some great saves, “said Kelly.

Lubin was asked how he kept his composure during the late game onslaught.

“We knew the storm was coming,” said Lubin. “We just had to figure out how to handle it. It’s easy to get in your own head, but you just have to stay positive.”

The Cardinals, winners of three straight MIAA A crowns (2017 t0 2019) before the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, begin their title defense Thursday afternoon with a first round match with John Carroll School.