Par­lay­ing one crown into an­other

Car­di­nals trio hope youth ti­tle ex­pe­ri­ence will pay off in MIAA

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Glenn Gra­ham glenn.gra­ham@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Glen­nGra­hamSun Bal­ti­more Sun staff con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

Calvert Hall soccer stars Ben Alexan­der, Chris Car­roll and Seth Walker shared an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence when their club team, Pipe­line SC, claimed a US Youth Soccer Na­tional Cham­pi­onship over the sum­mer.

In win­ning the un­der-17 divi­sion, Pipe­line over­came a loss in its open­ing game of pool play, fended off area ri­val Bal­ti­more Celtic, 1-0, in the semi­fi­nals and beat Vir­ginia-based Loudoun, scor­ing the first goal in the cham­pi­onship game.

It’s no won­der that, af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle blew in the 2-1 ti­tle game win, Walker said it took a cou­ple of days for the ac­com­plish­ment to sink in, adding: “Putting the na­tional cham­pi­onship T-shirt on was so sur­real.”

Now, the trio — friends since they were 8 years old and all three-year var­sity play­ers with the Car­di­nals — want to put what they learned to use this fall. Their think­ing: How cool would it be to lead No. 1 Calvert Hall to a Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence crown, too?

“It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence win­ning the na­tional cham­pi­onship and es­pe­cially do­ing it with Chris and Seth,” Alexan­der said. “Hope­fully, we can carry over the chem­istry and con­trib­ute to an MIAA cham­pi­onship. Know­ing how to win — the right way to play when you’re lead­ing and the right way to at­tack a game when you’re los­ing — I think that ex­pe­ri­ence is re­ally valu­able and can def­i­nitely help us.”

Af­ter fin­ish­ing 13-6-1 last sea­son — reach­ing the league semi­fi­nals for a sec­ond straight year — the Car­di­nals, ranked No. 1 with a 4-1 record, are poised for a break­through sea­son.

They have sev­eral re­turn­ing starters and re­ceived a bonus when stand­out for­ward Brady O’Con­nor re­turned to the team af­ter play­ing in the U.S. De­vel­op­ment Academy last sea­son. There’s a buzz around cam­pus with high ex­pec­ta­tions for the sea­son.

The elec­tric­ity is ex­pected to be high tonight when No. 2 Arch­bishop Cur­ley (6-0-1) visits for the 15th Reif Alumni Cup at 7 p.m. at Paul An­gelo Russo Sta­dium. Last sea­son at Cur­ley, Alexan­der scored twice to Seth Walker, left, Chris Car­roll, cen­ter, and Ben Alexan­der, friends since age 8, will help lead No. 1 Calvert Hall against No. 2 Arch­bishop Cur­ley tonight. lead the Car­di­nals to a 3-1 win, end­ing a five-game slide against the Fri­ars. Cur­ley has won seven games in the se­ries, while Calvert Hall has won six with one draw.

The Car­di­nals’ ul­ti­mate goal, how­ever, is play­ing in — and win­ning — the sea­son’s last game to bring home the pro­gram’s first MIAA A cham­pi­onship since 2003.

“It’s not go­ing to be easy — no game in the MIAA is,” Car­roll said. “We can’t look into the rank­ings too much and just need to play our game and I think we can get it. It would not only mean a lot to us, but also the school and es­pe­cially the alumni. It would be great to win a na­tional cham­pi­onship and then come back to win here. That kind of pres­sure is nice to have.”

Calvert Hall’s hopes start — from the back end to the front — with Walker, Car­roll and Alexan­der.

Walker is the team’s hold­ing mid­fielder, who uses his size and skills to shut down op­pos­ing team’s threats be­fore they ma­te­ri­al­ize. He dom­i­nates in the air, wins many of the balls in his vicin­ity and is ef­fec­tive in get­ting the ball for­ward. Car­roll is a dy­namic play­mak­ing cen­ter-mid­fielder who can beat de­fend­ers one-on-one, thread passes to team­mates and score goals. He has a special con­nec­tion with Alexan­der, an old-school for­ward who uses his size, ath­leti­cism and ag­gres­sive­ness to work his way into the box and fin­ish off chances.

Hav­ing played to­gether through­out the sum­mer at such a high level — the club na­tional ti­tle game was July 31 — the three plan to carry their sharp­ness and in­ten­sity into the high school sea­son.

“They’ve come in and worked hard im­me­di­ately and it’s nice to have guys that have played to­gether for a con­tin­u­ous pe­riod of time — play­ing through­out [club] re­gional and na­tion­als through­out the sum­mer. It’s a nice three­some right there in the mid­dle of the field and we have qual­ity play­ers around them who feed off of them and their en­ergy,” Calvert Hall coach Rich Zinkand said.

McDonogh coach Bran­don Quar­anta knows what his de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pion Ea­gles will be up against when they face the Car­di­nals. He is also a coach and club direc­tor for Bal­ti­more Celtic, and sev­eral of his stand­out play­ers have won na­tional cham­pi­onships and car­ried over the suc­cess at McDonogh.

“When you’re play­ing at that level and suc­cess­ful at that level, there’s a con­fi­dent boost that comes with it,” he said. “They’ve found ways to win games against some of the best teams in the coun­try. Along the course of the ride all the way through, you have to find dif­fer­ent ways to win games and I think that repli­cates the MIAA pretty well. So I think in that sense, find­ing ways to win games in a va­ri­ety of ways against top-level com­pe­ti­tion is a great tran­si­tion and it cer­tainly helped our pro­gram over the years and I’m sure it will be an as­set to Calvert Hall this year as well.”

The trio learned so much about them­selves and their team dur­ing their suc­cess­ful run this sum­mer. Walker said Pipe­line prob­a­bly wasn’t the most tal­ented team in the na­tional field, but played the hard­est and found ways to win.

In win­ning the cham­pi­onship game, Alexan­der, who scored a team-high four goals in the tour­na­ment’s five games, said it would have been easy to roll over when trail­ing by a goal in the sec­ond half, but com­ing back to score two goals and win showed char­ac­ter he had never ex­pe­ri­enced. Car­roll saw it, too. “I think we found a cer­tain calm­ness within the team. Be­ing down 1-0 in the fi­nal, we didn’t lose our cool and just kept play­ing our game. I think that’s some­thing we need to carry over,” he said. Howard won, 25-16, 25-14, 25-19. NO. 6 ATHOLTON D. NO. 4 CEN­TEN­NIAL, 3-1: Lisa Zoch had 21 kills and Elise Park had17 digs as the host Raiders (2-1) up­set the Ea­gles (1-2). Atholton won, 26-28, 25-11, 25-22, 25-23. NO. 9 SEVERNA PARK D. AN­NAPO­LIS, 3-0: Ally Win­ship and An­gela Cot­trell had six kills and the Fal­cons (4-0) beat the host Pan­thers (0-3).

Severna Park won, 25-16, 25-10, 25-19.

ALGERINA PERNA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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