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Calvert Hall started its season in decidedly un-Calvert Hall-ian fashion.
Perennially one of the country’s top teams, the Cardinals started their season with a win, as is expected. What happened after that, though? Definitely not expected. Calvert Hall dropped four games. The Cardinals lost to excellent teams in Hill Academy (Ont.), Lawrenceville (N.J.), Malvern Prep (Pa.) and MIAA foe St. Mary’s, but they usually go through a similar early-season slate with a shinier record to show for it. To make matters worse, they fell to the Saints by 10 goals, their first-double digit loss since… yeah. It’s been a while.
Since then, though, things have changed. They went into Tuesday night’s MIAA semifinal as victors of nine of the past 10 games and the No. 2 seed in the league playoffs. Despite that, there was a parallel to their early-season woes when they found themselves down by three goals on three separate occasions. One of those even stretched to four goals.
Cool, Calm and Collected
Yet the Cardinals didn’t seem fazed by it. At all. In the slightest. Rather, they got to work, slowly denting Loyola Blakefield‘s lead. Even though the Dons went into the half up by a goal, there was a sense that the game now belonged to Calvert Hall after Shuey Kelly bagged himself a natural hat trick. The latter two goals were carbon copies of the other, both pinpoint blasts from the wing off of Wyatt Hottle setups less than 90 seconds apart.
Once the Cardinals got themselves going, they couldn’t stop. Calvert Hall finished it off in style, downing the Dons, 11-8, to cement a spot in the MIAA final against defending league champion McDonogh. The Eagles downed No. 5 Boys’ Latin, 8-7, in overtime on McCabe Millon‘s game-winner.
“We’ve been behind a lot this season and we know the game’s not won in the first quarter and it’s definitely not lost,” said Kelly, a Georgetown signee. “We continued to stick to our gameplan and we had looks, but we were playing a little uncharacteristic at the beginning. Trying to force stuff, so we just started playing simple and stuck to it. After that, they started falling.”
Kelly and Hottle have a natural chemistry from playing together in both high school and club. As a result, it wasn’t very surprising that they were the ones who got the Cardinals flying with a couple of big goals. Kelly beat his man on a sweep and canned a bouncer for his first one. The next two came when Hottle, a Syracuse signee, dodged from up top and drew the defense to him, leaving Kelly open. The future Hoya obliged by cranking home a pair of absolute darts.
“Playing with Wyatt Hottle my entire life, I know when he’s throwing me the ball on that wing, I’m usually going to be able to get a shot,” Kelly explained. “I didn’t think twice about it. Just turn and pull it. We always preach that it’s someone new every game (to lead the team). Last game, it was Wyatt. (Tuesday), I thought I kind of started picking it up a little, but it was more what (the Dons) were giving us. The ball’s going to find whoever. We’re not targeting one guy.”
Loyola opened up 3-0, 4-1 and 6-2 leads early on despite faceoff dominance from Jackson Strickland. The Richmond signee was dominant throughout, and much like its early-season start, Calvert Hall was able to put its struggles behind en route to an impressive performance. The second half was all Cardinals, all the time as they scored seven of the first eight goals to pull away. Hottle finished with two goals and three assists, while Kelly had an assist to go with his hat trick.
Eyes on the Prize
When the Cardinals were celebrating minutes later, those four losses from March might as well have been from four years ago. Calvert Hall will be an underdog tonight, but bet against the Cardinals at your own peril.
“Everybody stepped up,” Hottle opined. “Everybody’s been making plays the last three weeks and we’re all coming together as a team. I still believe we’ve yet to play our best game. (An MIAA title) would mean everything for these seniors. Our COVID year, getting through that. Our second year, not being able to play out of conference. Last year was our first full year and we ended up coming up short the last two years. To finally get this moment in our senior year, we’re not going to let this slip away.”
Loyola Blakefield vs. Calvert Hall Standouts
Jermaine Anderson ’25, LSM, Calvert Hall
Anderson looks every bit the part of a big-time prospect at LSM in the 2025 class. Physically, he stands out at about 6-2, 190 pounds, but he also runs really well in the open field. Anderson was seemingly omnipresent around the ball and gets his stick out on hands. Also the starting strong safety at Calvert Hall, he’s not afraid to get physical on ball and has an incredibly bright future.
Wyatt Hottle ’23, midfield, Calvert Hall / Syracuse
Hottle was the driving force behind the Cardinals’ comeback. His dodging ability and passing vision made him a tough cover for the Dons. Hottle finished with two goals and three assists. His first goal looked like it was intended to be a pass but ended up in the net, so better to be lucky than good. He was also good, though, and had a fourth-quarter goal on a sweep to push the game out of reach for Loyola. Hottle had the aforementioned back-to-back assists to Shuey Kelly, but the future Orange also set up Nick Steele’s tally.
Brady Nicholas ’24, LSM, Loyola Blakefield / Crabs / Marquette
Nicholas was a very bright spot for Loyola with his ability to make plays in the middle of the field. He has a great frame at about 6-2, 185 pounds, and Nicholas is a very opportunistic slider. He had a caused turnover early on a perfectly-timed double team where he dropped the hammer on an unsuspecting middie. Nicholas made a handful of other plays, including grabbing some ground balls on the faceoff wings. He’s got a nose for the ball and it seems to find him.
Liam Powell ’24, defense, Loyola Blakefield / Crabs / Delaware
One thing’s certain: playing Powell is not something that you look forward to doing. The future Blue Hen and four-star junior plays such a mean, aggressive game. He slides to collide and arrives with bad intentions. Sometimes, the aggressiveness can pull him a bit out of position, but he recovers well and does a good job in coverage. If there’s a ground ball, though? Powell wants to hit somebody. He’s a middle linebacker playing with a long pole.
Jackson Strickland ’23, faceoff midfield, Calvert Hall / Richmond
A tall, well-built athlete, Strickland dominated at the faceoff stripe from the opening draw. The future Spider won his first four faceoffs and six of the first seven, most of which came rather easily. He exploded out of his stance and used his quick first step to pretty much do whatever he wanted. Calvert Hall got off to a slow start offensively despite his wins, but Strickland’s consistency helped the Cardinals get back into it. He also had a huge juice goal eight seconds after a Ryan Botek tally to give Calvert Hall its first lead of the game.
“I’ve got faith in my guys,” Strickland said. “I’m going to do my job and they’re going to do their job. They have faith in me. … We got a ton of lessons at the beginning of the year, which showed us that we’ve got what it takes. We stayed focused and we fell back on our foundation, we trust each other, and we’re here now.
Calvert Hall 11, Loyola Blakefield 8
Ty Bleach ’24 (Team 91 Maryland) 3 goals
Mason Hill ’24 (Crabs / Loyola) 2 goals
Owen Dixon ’23 (Crabs / North Carolina) 1 goal, 1 assist
Mason Cook ’24 (Crabs / Lafayette) 1 goal
Matt Burnam ’23 (Towson) 2 assists
Shane Elliott ’23 (Fairfield) 1 assist
Bennett Wright ’23 (Mount St. Mary’s) 11 saves
Shuey Kelly ’23 (Georgetown) 3 goals, 1 assist
Wyatt Hottle ’23 (Syracuse) 2 goal, 3 assists
Ryan Botek ’23 (Holy Cross) 2 goals
Nick Steele ’23 (High Point) 1 goal, 1 assist
Joe Duggan ’24 1 goal
Kyle Bacso ’23 (Bryant) 1 goal
Jackson Strickland ’23 (Richmond) 1 goal
Alex Swartz ’24 6 saves