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Close, But No Cigar In Championships

Ireton’s girls lax, baseball fall in WCAC tournament title games.

Bishop Ireton knew it was going to have to pull something special — or magical — to end up with a rare and much-coveted Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament title. In both baseball and girls lacrosse, the Cardinals couldn’t muster any more mystique when it counted.

The girls lacrosse team dropped an 11-8 decision to Good Counsel on Tuesday at Ludwig Field on the University of Maryland's campus. Not having won against the Falcons since 2003, it was the Good Counsel’s fifth straight WCAC title.

But second-seeded Ireton still had its chances, especially early. The Cardinals, led by George Mason signee Julianne Tela, scored the game’s first four goals, and then held a 5-1 advantage before giving up five straight to close the half.

Ireton, behind sophomore Janet Tela's (Julianne’s younger sister) three goals, regained the lead in the second half, only to have it once again disappear. Junior Chesney Hellmuth pulled the Cardinals within a point in the fourth quarter, but Good Counsel’s Mary Swarthout, the WCAC Player of the Year scored the last of her game-high four goals to preserve the win.

Brittany Barnwell had two goals for Ireton, but received a second yellow in the waning moments of the first half. Junior Allie Fife and Julianne Tela each scored once.

Under first-year head coach Cara Hurrin, Ireton currently has a 16-4 record, and will play in the quarterfinals of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state tournament on Thursday. The Cardinals will take on Paul VI, a team they beat 15-8 on April 16.

<b>IN BASEBALL</b>, the fifth-seed Cardinals weren’t even expected to make it past the first round, much less the WCAC championship game against third-seeded DeMatha. After dispatching O’Connell and Paul VI over consecutive days, the Stags won handily, 11-3, in the tournament title last Thursday at Shirley Povich Field in Rockville, Md.

With both team’s best pitchers fatigued, DeMatha got to Ireton junior starter Dan Nicoll. The Stags scored three runs in the third, then added another run in the fifth, before exploding for seven runs in the sixth.

Ireton (13-13) struggled at the plate, mostly in part to outstanding DeMatha defense, before tacking three runs in the seventh.

First-year coach Mike Gallagher, selected as the league coach of the year last week, had five juniors in the starting lineup, and none on the first-team all-WCAC. If the Cardinals had won, it would have been their first WCAC boys' championship in any sport. Ireton reached the VISAA state title game in football playing an independent schedule.

“I think it speaks real well to where we’re going,” said Ireton athletic director Bill Simmons. “We’re headed in the right direction and we’ve put a lot of money into the facilities. And we have some great coaches right now — when you put that combination together, it makes you better.”

Ireton failed to make the eight-team (VISAA) state tournament, which began Tuesday.