Not even 10 saves by goalie Zach Thornton could keep John Carroll's defending champion boys soccer team alive in the MSA playoffs.
Although Thornton was at his acrobatic best, the Patriots couldn't generate much of an offense as they fell to Calvert Hall, 1-0, in the quarterfinals of the MSA A Conference championships Wednesday in Towson.
Although they accumulated a 9-6-3 record, the Patriots had lost almost all of the strength of last year's tournament title team to graduation.
Thornton and center forward John Pellegrini, who missed Wednesday's game with an injury, were the only Patriots who started in last year's championship season.
Through most of Wednesday's game, Thornton baffled Calvert Hall's offense by fearlessly surging out of the goal to upset a drive or soaring through the air to snatch corner kicks before anyone else could reach them.
Thornton, who shut out the Cardinals (12-3-1) in the first half, had two point-blank saves about eight yards out in front of the net.
The senior veteran even got a hand on the game-winner. Adam Eagan's angled shot from the left glanced off Thornton's fingers and then off defender Mike Laatsch into the far corner of the net.
That goal, on a perfect crossing pass from Brian Geraghty, gave the Cardinals the lead 6 minutes into the second half.
Despite his heroics, Thornton still needed some help, but his offense didn't provide much. The Patriots managed just five shots on goal, compared to 18 by Calvert Hall.
Playing without captain and leading scorer Pellegrini really hurt the Patriots' offense. With so many young players on the field -- including four sophomores and sometimes three freshmen -- nobody could make up for Pellegrini's skill and leadership.
Pellegrini, a senior, had some teeth knocked out during a collision in Monday's game against McDonogh. Although the teeth were put back in, Pellegrini just couldn't play.
"Without him out there, we knew we were going to have to make it a low scoring game, because Calvert Hall is one of the top teams in the league," said Assistant Coach Rob Heubeck.
The Cardinals haven't lost to an MSA foe this year. Each of their three losses came to a Howard County power.
The Patriots' game plan against Calvert Hall was to pack in their defense and look for fast-break opportunties, said Heubeck. But quick getaways were few against Calvert Hall's veteran backs and midfield.