Roland Park senior CeCe Finney didn’t want her career to end one game short of playing for a championship.
So she went out and did something about it, scoring a game-high six goals to lead the Reds (15-4) to a 12-10 win over host Notre Dame Prep (10-5) in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference girls lacrosse semifinals.
The win avenged a 13-12 loss to the Blazers on April 2 and earned the Reds a date with unbeaten McDonogh in the championship game at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Stevenson University.
“We had a little more heart this game,” Finney said. “We started going after the ball and we knew we could get it when we went after it. That was a big difference. We played like a solid team most of the time.”
NDP took control early, scoring three of the game’s first four goals. Georgia Tunney (team-high five goals) scored two of them.
Roland Park responded with five straight goals.
Junior Francesca Whitehurst scored the first two and last one was sandwiched around a pair of Finney tallies.
“That is like the big momentum when you come back and have that extra push to get ahead, so we felt that big time,” Finney said.
But Roland Park coach Kristin Nicolini knew they couldn’t rest on the lead and the Blazers proved her right as Tunney and Mae Tarr (3 goals) answered to make it 6-5.
Anna Hauser was strong on the remaining draws and the Reds closed the half with goals by Katie Bolte and Finney, off a Mary Diffenderfer assist, and the Reds led 8-5 at intermission.
“We let down at the end of the first half,” NDP coach Mary Bartel said.
Even though the Reds led at halftime, Finney made sure her team wasn’t going to ease up.
“We had a talk at halftime, saying ‘you are not up by three, you are down by two,’ so we played like we were down the whole time,” said the University of Florida recruit.
Just over a minute into the second half, Hauser scored for a 9-5 lead.
Caroline Drusano’s attempt to end the Reds’ three-goal scoring run bounced off the post and Tunney had a free position shot leak wide.
“We needed the ball to bounce a little differently and we just didn’t get it,” Bartel said. “We couldn’t buy a goal. We couldn’t get a 50/50 ball.”
Drusano finally ended the scoring drought with 21:07 remaining in the second half, but the Reds upped the lead to 11-6 on two goals by Finney, the second off an assist from Jenna James.
James did not play in the early-season loss to the Blazers.
Drusano assisted Tunney, who bounced one home to make it 11-7 with 14:50 remaining, but 40 seconds later, Finney whipped one into the top shelf and the lead was back to five, 12-7.
Roland Park’s defense, led by Jenna Braverman, Marisa Class and Katie Demuth and goalie Riley Brager, bent, but never broke in the final 11 minutes, despite allowing three unanswered goals.
Tunney, Molly Cobb and Tarr, off Drusano’s assist, scored the final three goals for the Blazers.
“We told them this isn’t a team that is going to go away,” Nicolini said. “They are going to be at your doorstep until the final 50 minutes.”
Brager made two clutch saves in the final five minutes to preserve the victory.
“We told her we just need a few big stops to get the defense motivated and let the attack do some things so they are not so worried about the defensive end,” Nicolini said.
Finney wasn’t worried about the championship game right after the victory, but she knows that time will come soon.
“We’ve got a day off, and after that, it’s championship mode,” she said. “This is our last one, the last game of my Roland Park career, so we are ready to think about it as soon as possible.”
Other IAAM scores
McDonogh 13 Severn 12
Friends 15 Park 9
Glenelg Country 11 Mercy 10
Oldfields 15 Chapelgate 11