Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DeMatha storms back to lacrosse title

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The DeMatha High School lacrosse team had been working toward reclaiming the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title since losing out on it a year ago. The Stags finally seized it Tuesday evening at the University of Maryland, and it didn't take long.

DeMatha dispatched an 18-3 beating of Good Counsel at Ludwig Field to capture its ninth championship in 10 years. The Stags (14-5) scored the first eight goals unanswered, and from that point on it was just a matter of time before they could hoist the trophy once again.

Shane Ryznar helped ensure the game wouldn't be in doubt for more than about three minutes. Ryznar, bound for the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, scored four of his five goals in the first quarter, which left DeMatha ahead 7-0.

By halftime the Stags led 13-1. Entering the final 12 minutes, they were up 15-1.

‘‘I thought it was going to be a nail-biter at the end,” Ryznar said. ‘‘We just came out so fired up, I just don't think Good Counsel was ready for that.”

Four other players had multi-goal games, including Mike Smail with three and Patrick Harbeson, Sean McKenna and Mike Williams with two each.

Starting goalie Matt Miller limited the Falcons to one goal in the first half, and second-half goalie Ryan Brant made several impressive stops before being relieved by Matt Campbell to end the game.

As good as the Stags were throughout the regular season - they went undefeated in the conference for the first time in three years - they never quite had a game like their last one.

Their earlier victory over third-seeded Good Counsel (16-5) came by the sizeable margin of 14-6. But in the biggest game of the year, they served up their second-biggest blowout of the year.

‘‘Of our top nine guys on offense, all nine of them can take it to the hoop,” said coach Scott Pugh.

With a program-record seven seniors signing with NCAA Division I schools and a handful of juniors having already committed to do the same, there was never any question among the Stags that they should back in the title game.

But this year had an added incentive. The sting of St. Mary's Ryken snapping DeMatha's stretch of eight straight titles a season ago lingered on, until the Stags' reclaimed the honor Tuesday.

‘‘It gets better every time,” Smail said. ‘‘Not winning it last year really put a dent in the tradition, but we're starting a new tradition.”

Even with all their talent, Stags had their share of adversity. Senior starting attackmen Ryan Kotowski and J.P. Pietropaoli ended their seasons midway through due to injury. Kotowski suffered his second season-ending knee injury in two years.

But any shred of despair didn't last long. Pugh moved Ryznar to attack, which gave the Stags a left-handed player up front to take over in Kotowski's absence. DeMatha rebounded quickly and never looked back.

‘‘We couldn't mope over that,” Smail said. ‘‘We had to get everything together like we did and come together as a team. The more we played together as a team, the easier things came, like [Tuesday night's game], and things worked out for the best.”

E-mail Kevin Hilgers at khilgers@gazette.net.