John Carroll School, expected to be among the top challengers for the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference boys soccer championship, got an up-close look at the defending champion last Thursday and was not overwhelmed by it.
Calvert Hall (2-0), The Sun's second-ranked team, broke away from a 1-0 lead with two goals midway through the second half and defeated the Patriots, 3-0, but the visitors (3-2) came away believing they could play with the winners.
This had not been the case in recent years, as the Cardinals had won five of the previous six meetings.
"This was the third straight year we've played down here," said John Carroll goalkeeper Ed Maynard (15 saves), "and last year, we were down 3-0 by halftime. This time, it was the final score."
After Todd Perkins converted a pass from Jeremy Baker into a 1-0 lead in the game's second minute, the two teams played on fairly even terms for some 56 minutes. The last two goals came within a six-minute span.
"Calvert Hall will be the best team we face all season," John Carroll coach John Hughes said, "and I think we found out a lot we can build on."
The Patriots had opened their season two weeks ago, beating St. Mary's, 5-1, and losing to Gonzaga, 3-0, in a one-day tournament at Bel Air. Wins over Lutheran and St. Paul's followed.
"The Gonzaga game and this game helped us learn how to respond under pressure. We were able to see where we need the work," Hughes added.
Two obvious areas of Calvert Hall's superiority were its speed and its ability to dominate the head balls.
As John Carroll senior midfielder Frank Sweeney expressed it, "We didn't take control when they spread their offense. Defensively, we have to push to the ball."
Senior back Mike Laatsch, a tower of strength all afternoon, added, "We still came in here timid, but I think we found out they're not unbeatable. The next time we play [Oct. 13 in Bel Air], if we hustle, we'll have a good chance against them."
Hughes said, "Calvert Hall seems to have some kind of a mystique. They play with confidence, and we come in and play as though we were scared to make a mistake. I'm never satisfied with losing, but I thought we showed character."
That was true at least until the second goal, after which there appeared to be a letdown, as the Patriots seemed to realize they weren't going to come back from that deficit.
Calvert Hall coach Bill Karpovich unknowingly echoed Hughes' thoughts on mystique.
"We feel more comfortable playing at home, and we play with more confidence," he said. This was different from Tuesday's game at Severna Park, where the Cardinals struggled past No. 11 Severna Park, 1-0, in a more physical contest.
Although Baker is the only returning starter from last year's17-1 club, Karpovich still was able to start eight seniors. "There are no great players, but we are deep," the coach said. "We can use six or seven different midfielders without a noticeable drop-off in talent."
"I'm really pleased with how we played. John Carroll has the same team as last year, when it made the playoffs, and I thought they might be the second-best team in the league."
+ No need to ask who's No. 1.