Up and down John Carroll always manages to stay on top of its game

April 09, 1995|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

John Carroll coach Boo Smith wouldn't know what it feels like to have his team finish in the middle of the pack in either of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association conferences.

In his 17 years as coach of the Patriots boys lacrosse team, Smith has grown accustomed to watching his team take its lumps in the elite MIAA A Conference or dish them out in the B Conference.

After struggling to a 2-12 mark as a member of the A Conference in 1993, John Carroll returned to the B Conference last season and won it all, going undefeated in league competition and shutting out Friends, 7-0, in the title game at UMBC.

If the Patriots successfully defend their B Conference title, Smith realizes that his team may be thrown back in the A Conference again next season.

And he doesn't mind a bit.

"We've been moving up and down from the A Conference to B Conference so much I feel like a yo-yo," said Smith, who measures success against A Conference opponents not by wins, but by margins of defeat. "As long as my guys show improvement from the season opener to the season finale is all that matters."

To ensure that all of his players get a taste of the area's best, Smith goes out of his way to line up games with A Conference teams. The Patriots opened this season against Boys' Latin, the top-ranked team in the metro poll, and, they were dealt a 15-4 loss.

"We just don't have the numbers you need to be successful in the A Conference," said Smith, whose team rebounded from the loss to the Lakers by downing B Conference rival Archbishop Spalding, 14-3. "We play competitive lacrosse for a quarter or two against the A Conference teams and then our first midfield runs out of gas."

The Patriots' first midfield unit of Shane Gray, Matt Brown and Andy Haller may not have enough gas to keep up with perennially deep and talented teams like Boys' Latin, Gilman and Loyola but they give John Carroll a surplus of fuel against B

Conference powers Friends and Park.

"For us to be in position to beat [John Carroll] we have to play a near-perfect game," said coach Lucky Malonee, whose Park team bowed to the Patriots on Friday, 9-2. "When John Carroll is in the B Conference, our realistic expectations of being in, or winning, the championship game are diminished, but on the other hand, we get to play against a quality program. There's pros and cons to it."

Friends coach Jon Garman said he enjoys the additional challenge that John Carroll provides his team and hopes the Patriots stay down in the B Conference.

"It's good for our kids and they never complain," said Garman, whose team will get its shot at John Carroll on Tuesday. "They accept the challenge and are happy to have a chance to make a run at them."

The Patriots' top defenseman, senior Adam Parris, attended Gilman his freshman year before transferring, and he played on the varsity his sophomore year when John Carroll was still in the A Conference. Parris attributes the Patriots' ill-fated stints in the A Conference to a shortage of confidence and not talent.

"As soon as we moved back down to the B Conference we made a humongous step in our confidence level," said Parris, who plans to continue his education and lacrosse career at Bucknell. "I'm happy playing in the B Conference and I know I've gotten as much out of my high school career as I could have hoped. Sure, it's not the A Conference, but it's not a bad conference either."

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