To illustrate his squad's improvement over last year's 3-9 record, Archbishop Spalding's second-year lacrosse coach Terry Mangan alluded to a classic cartoon advertisement.
The strip depicts a skinny man, who while sunbathing with a female companion, gets sand kicked all over him by a muscular bully who also takes the man's girlfriend.
After a few months and an intense training regimen, the once-skinny man returned -- stronger than ever. He got his revenge, as the bully became the victim.
"Our team was young, and we got a lot of dirt kicked in our faces last year. We didn't like it at all," said Mangan. "Now it's our turn."
And on Tuesday, Mangan hopes to work a similar scenario against Maryland Scholastic Association BB Conference leader Friends. The 7-0 Quakers hammered the Cavaliers, 12-4, on April 23.
A victory would give the Cavaliers the inside track to a playoff berth against Friends, which already has clinched an appearance in the championship game. A loss on Tuesday would put the Cavaliers in a must-win situation for Friday's regular-season finale against Archbishop Curley (3-3 division). Spalding defeated Curley, 7-3, on April 21.
The Cavaliers are seeking the school's first crown and its second title-game appearance since losing, 8-7, to John Carroll in the 1988 B Conference championship. Athletic Director Dominic Pachence called the 1989 season "disastrous," and the Cavaliers were 1-12 in 1990.
"Being at the bottom" is distasteful, said senior midfielder Brian Edwards, a member of the last two teams. "We still haven't proven ourselves by beating Friends, and that's the only way we can get the title."
Like their 25-year-old coach, a Long Island (N.Y.) native, the Cavaliers are young and enthusiastic. And like their coach, a former goalkeeper out of Virginia's Roanoke College, the youthful squad (just three seniors) doesn't relish having its back to the wall.
"We had our high points and our low points last year, although our low points were really low," said Mangan.
"We played McDonogh pretty well up at their place last year, and we lost, 12-5, but then they came down here. We weren't really ready and they smoked us, like 19-1. But we came back and we beat Northeast and played well against John Carroll. We ended the season on a good note."
McDonogh and John Carroll since have moved up to the A Conference, being replaced by former B Conference contenders Park and Poly, a team the Cavaliers have beaten twice.
And this year, the 7-4 Cavaliers (4-2 in the conference) have been dishing out most of the punishment, including a 23-0 shellacking of Baltimore's Patterson High.
"We knew with the realigning of the conferences that there would be a lot more parity and that we wouldn't always be getting blown out," said Mangan. "We kept it to ourselves, but we set our sights on the conference championships."
The Cavaliers' most recent victory, 8-0, Friday over Park (3-7, 1-6) avenged an earlier 7-6 loss. This time, the Cavaliers dominated.
While junior scoring leader Dan Wolf (34 goals, 12 assists) exploited Park's defense for four goals and three assists and led an offense that fired 23 shots on goal, his 6-foot-5 teammate, junior Rich Reilly, anchored a defense that limited their foes to seven shots.
"Dennis Fohner was a middie last year, but we moved him down to the crease [defense]," said Mangan. "And with Reilly and [Timmy] Alvarez as bookends, they've all done a fantastic job."
Edwards (12 goals) assisted on four goals against Park to raise his assist total to 29, while teaming with Wolf and Scott Mattison to win 10-of-12 faceoffs. Keeper Keith Ramsey raised his saves total to 101 with four in the game.
"Dan Wolf is our most talented player, but Edwards is probably our most improved," said Mangan. "Brian was really a non-entity last year, but he's our leading assist man this year, and he makes our offense go."
The 6-2 Edwards, first-year attack middie Dave Justus (five goals, six assists) and defensive middie Kyle Simons are the squad's only seniors. The Cavaliers' attack has junior Brian Zemanick (19 goals, 10 assists) and sophomore Anthony Mattera (25, 12).
"We have the same nucleus from last year, and that helped," said Mangan. "We didn't start out with guys fighting for starting positions, and we could just concentrate on getting better.
"Nothing that we've done so far this year was anything that we didn't think that we could do. We still have some work to do as far as getting there."
Said Reilly, "We know we've probably got more talent than everybody else in the league, and we can probably play with Friends, if we really go out and play."