MIAA ri­vals form new league

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Glenn Gra­ham

Six soc­cer pro­grams in the Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence have joined this fall to com­pete for a cham­pi­onship.

The MIAA an­nounced last week that its mem­ber schools can opt for a non-sanc­tioned “open sea­son” for fall sports be­cause the typ­i­cal sea­son was dis­rupted due to the coron­avirus pan­demic.

Af­ter the an­nounce­ment, Arch­bishop Cur­ley, Arch­bishop Spald­ing, Calvert Hall, John Car­roll, Loy­ola Blake­field and Mount Saint St. Joseph joined forces to cre­ate the Catholic League for the

2020 sea­son.

A 10-game reg­u­lar-sea­son sched­ule has ev­ery team play­ing each other twice in a home-and-home se­ries start­ing Oct. 31 and con­tin­u­ing through Dec. 9. The top four teams qual­ify for the play­offs with a semi­fi­nal round fol­lowed by the Catholic League cham­pi­onship game. The high­erseeded teams will host the con­tests.

Fel­low A Con­fer­ence teams McDonogh, Gil­man, St. Paul’s and Boys’ Latin have de­cided not to par­tic­i­pate.

With MIAA soc­cer steeped in rich tra­di­tion, the par­tic­i­pat­ing schools wanted to bank on a mean­ing­ful sea­son that in­cluded a cham­pion de­clared at the end.

“Our goal was to put to­gether a sched­ule that would give our re­spec­tive teams some­thing to play for,” said Cur­ley ath­letic direc­tor Matt Hat­ton on be­half of the par­tic­i­pat­ing schools. “We are ex­cited that the boys, es­pe­cially the se­niors, will have the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete this year and con­tinue the lo­cal soc­cer ri­val­ries that the Bal­ti­more area has been known for over the years.”

The teams are in the midst of try­outs in prepa­ra­tion for step­ping on the field Oct. 31.

The open­ing-day slate fea­tures Calvert Hall at Spald­ing, Cur­ley at Mount Saint Joe and John Car­roll at Loy­ola with times yet to be de­ter­mined.

While dis­ap­pointed that the full com­ple­ment of MIAA teams will not be com­pet­ing, Loy­ola coach Lee Tschantret will have his Dons ap­proach­ing the sea­son as any other. And while most of his play­ers re­turned to their re­spec­tive club teams over the sum­mer, he says play­ing high school ball brings a dif­fer­ent dy­namic.

“There’s some­thing to be said about rep­re­sent­ing some­thing that’s big­ger than your­self,” Tschantret said. “I per­son­ally think it’s a lit­tle bit more akin to the col­lege game than any­thing else, so I think it’s good for them in that way.

“There’s dif­fer­ent pres­sures that they face with high school than they face with their club teams — an in­ten­sity and some­thing dif­fer­ent about our games. Ev­ery game is a ri­valry game no mat­ter who you play, no mat­ter what the tal­ent dis­par­ity may be, and that’s just hard to du­pli­cate.”

Dons se­nior stand­out Dom Caltabi­ano, who now gets the chance to play in his fourth var­sity sea­son, agrees with Tschantret’s as­sess­ment.

“I’d say there’s a dif­fer­ence,” he said. “It’s def­i­nitely a great feel­ing to win for your school, have all your bud­dies cheer you on and just rep­re­sent your school.”

At Mount Saint Joseph, the buzz around school is pick­ing up with try­outs set to be­gin Mon­day. The team is ex­cited at the chance to play on the sta­dium’s new ar­ti­fi­cial-turf field.

“We’re all very ex­cited,” said ju­nior stand­out Brian St. Martin. “I know not ev­ery team is in it, but I still think to be able to com­pete for a cham­pi­onship is very good, es­pe­cially for the se­niors be­cause this is their last year play­ing for the high school team.”

Mount Saint Joe coach Mike St. Martin ap­plauded school ad­min­is­tra­tions for mak­ing the sea­son hap­pen.

“I think the ad­min­is­tra­tion has done a great job of look­ing out for the kids, putting safety pro­to­cols in place,” he said. “There’s also the whole men­tal part of this pan­demic — these kids need to be get­ting out there play­ing, com­pet­ing, re­liev­ing stress and do­ing what they’ve grown up do­ing. We would love to have all the schools play­ing, but these are the cards that were dealt and we’re ex­cited to have this come to­gether.”

Whether sup­port­ers will be per­mit­ted to at­tend games is be­ing de­ter­mined. Schools are plan­ning to livestream.

On the girls side in the IAAM, Spald­ing, Mercy, Notre Dame Prep and John Car­roll have com­mit­ted to play­ing against each other twice dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son with no play­offs yet to be set.

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