Under sunny skies in the sprawling Hunting Valley campus of University School, a season began on Tuesday.
The quest to Columbus started with a familiar foe in the Preppers. Fans could tell it was the first game of the season, as rust was shaken off over the course of the game.
But in the end, the Saint Ignatius varsity lacrosse team emerged with a confidence-building win. The Lax Cats clawed to a 10-5 victory to begin 2019 on a high note.
The game started slowly for both teams, the first game of the year for the Wildcats and just the second contest for the Preppers. Only one shot found twine in the first period.
Just 10 days after earning a ring with the Ice Cats, Greg Langermeier opened the scoring for the Wildcats. Langermeier took a pass from Connor Cmiel at the nearside wing, and found himself 1-on-1 with a short stick. Langermeier used a slick dodge to flow past him, dash towards the slot, and fire a shot into the back of the net. Langermeier is a dangerous threat on the ice and on the pitch, but he's also a great, resilient young man with a bright future.
The score stood at 1-0 for quite some time, until midway through the second period. Merick Hartley broke the drought, taking a pass from Michael Boehm on the far side wing and quickly whipping into the top corner of the net. University School responded with a tally with 3:31 left in the period, but Charlie Kinzel acted quickly to keep the lead. The junior took it by himself to the edge of the crease and overhanded a shot into the net.
The final minute featured two huge Saint Ignatius goals. Boehm found Nate Conry for a beauty with 30 seconds left, stretching the lead to three. Then with 8 seconds left in the half, Conry passed it from X to an open Hartley in the slot. The junior attacker roared a marvelous low-to-high shot to send the Cats into the half with a 5-1 lead.
"I think the looks were there on offense, we have to finish our shots. I was really lucky for Connor and Michael to draw the slides, enabling me to get a wide-open stepdown," said Hartley, who finished with 3 goals. "They really helped us out tonight."
The third quarter proved to be quiet, scoring-wise. Each team only managed one goal, though the Wildcats dominated possession. The Wildcats saw many chances and a host of near misses. Rust certainly had an effect in limiting the offense for both sides, as each team committed some avoidable turnovers.
Still, the Lax Cats held onto a nice 6-2 lead at quarter's end, thanks to a Cmiel goal. The junior found twine from the slot off an assist from Boehm.
The fourth featured a flurry of action. Cmiel roared down the field early in the stanza and buried a goal to start the scoring just 11 seconds into the period. However, the Preppers did respond a minute later and then a few minutes after to keep the contest close. Halfway through the fourth, Hartley provided the back-breaker. From an open lane on the far side of the field, Hartley ripped a goal to extend the lead to 8-4.
In the waning minutes, the Preppers scored again, but Jack Moriarity found twine twice. The senior battled through a physical Preppers defense to score two nice goals. The second tally occurred thanks to a great play by John Coughlin, who earned a ground ball and found a streaking Mort for the final goal.
"It's good to start off with a win," said Hartley. "We need to not force as much on offense, keep our spacing, and work on our shooting. We just need to work on a couple things and we'll be good to go."
Scoring 10 goals is great, but the Wildcats' defense and goalkeeping was just as impressive. Goalie Charlie Minerd provided some crucial saves down the stretch. On a couple occasions, the Preppers had momentum and possession. But each time, the junior stepped up big time to thwart the enemy threat.
"Charlie really never let them in the game. Our defense played a great game around him, but every time we came down, Charlie stood tall and a made a big save. He was out there getting ground balls, really good clears, and helping us get into our offense," said goalies coach Jim Smith '94. "He was seeing it great tonight. In the second half, we came out and got the early goal, but they got two in a row, not a whole lot Charlie could do. He had the answer all day. He has really good fundamentals – he's worked on them all season. You can see the progress from the end of last year to the beginning of this year. We're really excited about what he's done and what we're seeing out of him."
Minerd and the Wildcats will be back in action on Saturday, heading north to Michigan. The Lax Cats will do battle with a very strong Brother Rice squad in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan at 2 pm.
The Wildcats have a 4-5 record against Brother Rice all-time, with the last matchup occurring in 2014, a loss for the Lax Cats. The teams have played just 3 times since the turn of the century, with the last Saint Ignatius win coming in 1996.