ELLICOTT CITY — On Saturday morning before the Northern boys lacrosse team traveled to Mount Hebron High School to take on the Towson Generals in a Class 3A state semifinal contest, Patriots junior Matt Holland could sense everyone was locked in and ready to go.
“We were just so focused ever since we got to school in the morning. We were all so focused and locked in,” Holland said. “I could tell on the bus when everyone was just listening to their music to get locked in and no one was talking. Then when we got on the field, we were all hyped and we knew what was going to happen.”
Northern (18-1 overall) used a strong offensive start to secure a 12-4 victory over the Generals (16-5) and book its third straight appearance in the title game.
“I think we just came out going after it,” Patriots junior Jason McNult said. “I don’t think they were really ready for it or we were really ready for it, but we came out firing hard and just kept the momentum going and didn’t slow down.”
The Patriots will get a rematch with Westminster and a chance to avenge last year’s 12-8 loss in the title game when the two schools are slated to meet again in the Class 3A state finals at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Paint Branch High School.
“It is very rewarding as a coach to see the work go into this and then it actually be executed the way you want it to be executed,” Patriots head coach Joe Casalino said.
Northern wasted no time grabbing the early lead after Holland scored nine seconds into the contest.
“I thought today we came out with a whole bunch of energy, and nine seconds into the game we were scoring,” Holland said. “We knew we were going to click with everyone sharing the ball and being unselfish. It is something we aren’t used to in this offense because we have been struggling all year, but even at practice we have been playing better. You can tell the intensity has picked up because we know it will just be harder competition from here on out.”
The Patriots led Towson 4-0 after one quarter of play with goals from four different players: Holland, Markie Nicholson, John Sulier and Zach DeToto.
“I thought that is the cleanest we have played all season, especially on the offensive end of the field,” Casalino said. “We didn’t have the unforced turnovers. We really took care of the ball and ran the offenses that we wanted to run with the things we saw on film.”
Towson got on the board to begin the second quarter with a tally from senior Rory Bateman with 10 minutes 25 seconds remaining until the half. Northern scored the final five goals of the frame to lead 9-1 at the intermission.
“I think on face-offs in the first half, JP [Gross] did a fantastic job and Matt [Holland] was beating his one-on-one matchup,” Casalino said. “We tried to put in some offensive things to get a lot of movement so that there weren’t a lot of guys who could help him. I think that created some good opportunities for us early, and then we had control of the game and wanted to make sure we didn’t give it back.”
Towson and Northern traded goals back-and-forth three times in the second half, but the Patriots were able to maintain enough possession to stave off any comeback attempts from the Generals.
“I am really proud of the guys for executing in a way really quite frankly we haven’t executed all season, so it was good to see that,” Casalino said.
Holland and Nicholson tied with a game-high three goals each for the Patriots. Freshman Coy Mills and sophomore Brenner Chase each added two of their own tallies, while Sulier and DeToto scored once apiece for Northern’s 12 goals.
“If I can beat my matchup, then our team will be successful, so that is what I did today. I got my teammates involved as much as I could,” Holland said. “My teammates got me involved and found me in open spots, so coach Joe did a great job designing plays and game planning for this team. All the credit goes to coach Joe and my teammates.”
McNult added: “We just have to keep our tempo up and hopefully we will win states again.”