C. Milton Wright's boys lacrosse team did not need a couple more easy wins.
If they had, coach Carl Greenberg never would have inviteddefending Class 1A-2A state champion Mount Hebron to his third annual Mustang Shootout.
The Vikings (4-2), ranked No. 11 in The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 boys lacrosse poll, delivered the kind of tough competition Greenberg expected.
They also dealt the No. 9 Mustangs (7-1 overall, 3-0 league) their first loss of the season, 10-7, in the championship game ofthe Shootout Thursday night at C. Milton Wright.
Although Greenberg would have preferred a win, he said the loss may prove just as effective.
"The idea behind this tournament is to get the best teams possible," said the 12th-year coach. "There aren't any points involved, so it doesn't affect your playoff standing. If you get knocked off, you get knocked off. That's good for you sometimes."
Greenberg also wanted to prepare his squad for a tough regular-season finale week that includes games against Fallston (April 29) and defending county champ North Harford (May 1). Both also remain unbeaten in the county.
North Harford won the county title last year with a 7-4 victoryover the Mustangs on the final day of the regular season. The Mustangs, who had won 13 straight, went on to lose to Annapolis in the first round of the Class 3A-4A state championships.
Even the players expect that the loss to Mount Hebron will keep them from peaking too soon this time.
"I think this was a learning experience," said veteran defenseman and co-captain Ryan Arist. "Our first loss last year came in the county championship, and then we couldn't rebound for regionals. We needed a loss to take us to the next level of our game. Until we step up another level, we're not going to contend for anything."
Against Mount Hebron, the Mustangs gave up too many ground balls, especially at midfield. Even though statistics gave the Vikings only a slight edge, 37-31, in total ground balls, the Vikings vacuumed them up in the midfield.
"We're really on and off with that," said Greenberg. "They controlled the tempo of the game by controlling the midfield ground balls. The game is won between the restraining lines.Our midfielders have to do a better job of coming up with the ball."
The Mustangs started off quickly in a game of scoring spurts. Chris Lloyd intercepted Vikings' goalie Chris Paradian's clear attempt and fired it in, barely a minute into the game.
The Vikings came back with the first of only two extra-man goals in the game as Jason Vettori scored the first of his four goals. But Brian Moen wiped that out with the first of three straight Mustangs goals. Lloyd and Moen added their second scores to give the Mustangs a 4-2 lead, their biggest of the game.
Mount Hebron scored the last two goals of the firstquarter and the first two in the second quarter. C. Milton Wright had two early shots in the second quarter, but Mount Hebron dominated the next 10 minutes with nine shots, in cluding the two goals.
Moenfollowed with an unassisted goal, and Lloyd added another 27 secondsbefore halftime. Mount Hebron won the faceoff and worked the ball around to Vettori, who shot past two defenders and tied the game, 6-6, with one second left. Mustang goalie Andy Wishart (10 saves) never saw the ball coming.
"That one really hurt us," said Greenberg. "To work that hard and get the lead and then, bam, they get one right before the half. That could really have turned the tempo."
The Vikings, who never again trailed, scored twice before Lloyd added the Mustangs' only second-half goal. The Mustangs outshot Mount Hebron, 19-12,in the second half, but Paradian saved nine, including several at point-blank range. He finished with 17 saves.
In addition to attackers Lloyd and Moen, midfielders Jesse Sostrin, Mark Umbarger and Ryan Mish also played a splendid game, as did defensemen Arist, Chuck Heinze and Jason Lassahn.
In the preliminary game, C. Milton Wright beat Georgetown Prep, of Rockville, 10-8. Moen scored the first of his four goals on a feed from Josh Peters just over one minute into the game.
The Mustangs never gave up the lead.
Lloyd and Corey Lambroff scored two goals each, while Peters (three), Moen, Lambroff, Umbarger and Joe Milano had assists. Wishart tallied 14 saves and Jason Parks, one.