Family ties, long-term connections key Glenelg boys lacrosse's run to Class 2A state championship

May 23—Glenelg boys lacrosse is more than just a team: it's a family.

A lot of teams preach the same, but playing for the Gladiators is truly a family affair, and those familial connections have fostered the kind of trust and confidence most players can't replicate.

That all starts with senior twin brothers Chris and Tim Iannarino who have a long connection to the program, dating back to 2016. Their two older brothers, Cole and Connor, played for the Gladiators, with Cole playing on the 2019 state championship team.

Wednesday night at Stevenson University's Mustang Stadium, Tim wore Cole's 2019 Howard County Championship T-shirt under his jersey.

However, the deep founded connections don't stop there.

Seventeen years ago, Shane DuBois was in a stroller watching his older brother play on Glenelg's first state championship team in 2007 under coach Josh Hatmaker. Wednesday night, DuBois was a junior midfielder suiting up with Hatmaker roaming the sidelines once again.

"Me and Coach Hatmaker have known each other literally since the day I was born," DuBois said. "Coach has known me as long my parents have. It's a really cool relationship to have. It's like I have three dads, my actual dad, my brother and him. So it's great to win with all three dads."

With many following in the footsteps of their older brothers, this year's Gladiators, highlighted by the program's 12 seniors, forged their own legacy. Glenelg (15-3) fought off furious second half comeback attempts from Hereford, closing out the 10-7 win, the program's first Class 2A state championship since 2019.

Hatmaker joked postgame that five is a great number with this being the Gladiators' fifth title in program history and just the fifth time in Howard County history one school's boys and girls team each won state titles in the same season.

"I'm ecstatic for them," Hatmaker said. "You can see how close of a group these kids are. You can hear that right now listening to them talking. They're best friends off the field. ... I thought they did a great job of playing together and bringing the younger guys along. I couldn't be happier, it's a great group of kids. This one is special because no one picked us to be here and that's a testament to them."

Hereford trailed by two at halftime and cut it to a one-goal deficit three different times in the second half. Glenelg responded each time, showcasing its resolve behind a ferocious ride that helped to facilitate the offense.

One particular sequence highlighted that resilience. A one-goal game early in the fourth, the teams went to the faceoff X with Hereford holding a man advantage. To that point, Bulls faceoff specialist Cole Wallner had been dominating. Yet, in that critical moment, Chris Iannarino won it and gave Glenelg possession.

The Gladiators killed off the remainder of the penalty and drew one of their own. Shortly after, Tim Iannarino buried his game-high fifth goal, pushing Glenelg's advantage back to two.

"Just staying locked in and not letting the fans and everything with the atmosphere get to us," Chris Iannarino said of staying calm. "Only focusing on the game and just nothing else because all that matters is what's going on in the game. Taking a step back, taking a deep breath, just being ready what you need to do and get it done."

Sophomore Chase Buscher tacked on his second goal of the evening shortly after and the Gladiators took their largest lead of the second half. Glenelg attackers sprinted away from desperate Hereford defenders with the taste of victory palpable in the air.

The final horn blared and a sea of Gladiator sticks, gloves and helmets littered the air in a collective beeline toward junior goalie Zach Coughlin.

"I've been playing with a lot of these guys since I was 4 years old," Coughlin said. "I've played with them forever on different club teams and rec teams. Getting to celebrate with them and hold up a state championship, it's probably the best feeling I've ever felt. When that last whistle blew, celebrating and dog piling with guys that you've known forever, there's nothing like it."

The Iannarino brothers jointly held the state championship trophy in one final brotherly act, signifying the culmination of a special four-year journey.

"It's the perfect ending," Tim said. "Doing it with Chris, Day 1s, you're playing lacrosse forever together. I couldn't think of anyone else I'd want to end my career with and where it ended."

Chris added: "Being able to play with Tim all my life and just being able to have that brotherhood the whole time. I know all these kids so well. I've grown up with these kids since elementary school. I wouldn't want it to be with any other team."