To Glenelg's Anna Callahan, the No. 2 Gladiators needed a win like Saturday's 9-7 victory over No. 3 Notre Dame Prep.
"To me this year, it's very important because I'm just trying to prove everyone wrong and show that we can hang with those teams, the IAAM teams," Callahan said. "People think we can't hang with teams like that, but I believe, coach [Nikki] Trunzo believes, coach Alex [Pagnotta] believes, our whole team believes and we're proving to everyone that we can."
Not only could the Gladiators (7-0) hang with the previously undefeated Blazers, but they never trailed in the game that was part of the Glenelg Spring Break Tournament at Western Regional Park in Howard County.
The Blazers (12-1) came in as the third-ranked team in USA Today's Super 25 behind No. 1 McDonogh and No. 2 St. Stephen's and St. Agnes, from Alexandria, Va. The Gladiators were No. 14, but they dominated possession early, controlling six of eight first-half draws and winning most of the ground balls.
The defending Class 3A-2A state champs found some holes in NDP's shifty backer zone defense and ran out to a 4-0 lead.
Callahan fed Jenny Giampalmo and then scored a free-position goal before Alayna Pagnotta scored. Then Maddy O'Brien netted one off a pass from Courtney Renehan with 18:04 left in the half.
"Trying to beat that backer was so difficult," Callahan said. "Dodging around them and trying to get around them, you would run into another brick wall. We worked very hard to beat that zone. We run a similar backer to what they run, so we practice against a backer every day, so we have a lot of plays to get around those types of backers."
She said settling into a patient offense was the key to finding the openings in the zone.
The Blazers turned over their first two possessions and never had the ball between Glenelg's second and fourth goals, but Grace Haus finally put NDP on the board with a free-position goal with 17:23 left in the half.
Megan Jackson and Hannah Mardiney cut the lead to 4-3 by halftime, but a couple of man-up opportunities for Glenelg early in the second half helped the Gladiators build a little momentum.
They started the second half a man up, because an NDP yellow-card foul carried over from the first half. Callahan slipped a low shot past goalie Lucy Lowe (seven saves) to boost the lead to 5-3. Jordan Sabourin got one back for the Blazers before O'Brien pushed the lead back to two, 6-4.
The Blazers' third yellow card of the game gave Glenelg another two minutes of extra-man play and the Gladiators took advantage. Callahan fed Giampalmo and Lindsay Letellier assisted Pagnotta 21 seconds apart to take an 8-4 lead with 15:01 left.
"We knew they played a backer D," NDP coach Mac Ford said, "and I think, at times, we weren't as patient as we needed to be. They also caused turnovers on our clearing the ball — simple things. They did a great job there, so I thought that was a big issue, too. We didn't handle the ball as well as we usually do on our clears."
The Blazers rallied in the final 10 minutes. Mardiney scored on a feed from Caitlynn Mossman to cut the lead to 9-6, but they missed their next three shots — two saved by Glenelg goalie Maddie McSally, who finished with four.
Mossman hit Sydney Rosa to cut the lead to two with 1:50 left, and seconds later, Mossman appeared to score, but the official said she was in the crease and waved off the goal. Glenelg stalled away much of the rest of the game.
"We wanted this because we feel like we're on par with anybody in the country and we needed a signature win to prove that," Glenelg assistant coach Alex Pagnotta said. "We scrimmaged McDonogh early on. They're such a phenomenal team, but we'd only had two practices. I don't know if we've closed the gap with them by now, but we knew this was a chance to redeem ourselves a little bit from that scrimmage to show that we can compete at this level."
The Blazers bounced back in the second game with a 15-11 win over No. 4 Marriotts Ridge. Mossman had two goals and five assists while Mardiney had three goals and two assists.
The Mustangs (6-1) jumped on NDP first, too, with Lilly Kennedy's free-postion goal less than three minutes into the game. But this time, the Blazers dominated the draws and were more even on ground balls.
After Caroline Blalock's free-position goal put Marriotts Ridge up 3-2 with 16:43 left in the first half, the Blazers' Jackson scored when Katie Railey's pass clipped off the top of her stick and goalie Olivia Ranta couldn't get to the redirected ball.
That sparked a three-goal Blazers run and a 7-1 spurt that pushed the NDP lead to 9-1 on Railey's goal 3:27 before halftime.
"It was nice to work out some kinks that we had from the first game," Mardiney said. "I think our attack's been really good with cutting off ball and with our off-ball movement and we had a slow start against Glenelg, so it was nice to get out there and we didn't dig a hole like the first game. ... And when they switched their defense, we could adjust. They ran a pretty similar defense as Glenelg with the backer, so it was nice to figure that out."
Glenelg was the only team in the tournament to finish the day undefeated, taking a 17-9 victory over Dulaney with Letellier leading the way with four goals and three assists. Alayna Pagnotta, Callahan and Renehan had three goals each.
No. 2 GLENELG 9, No. 3 NDP 7
Goals: G—Callahan 3, Gianpalmo 2, Pagnotta 2, O'Brien 2; NDP—Mardiney 2, Haus, Jackson, Sabourin, Mossman, Rosa. Assists: G—Callahan 2, Renehan; NDP—Mossman 3, Suter, L.Letellier. Saves: G—McSally 4; NDP—Lowe 7. Half: G, 4-3.
No. 2 GLENELG 17, DULANEY 9
Goals: G—L. Letellier 4, Pagnotta 3, Renehan 3, Callahan 3, Scheinberg 2, OBrien, Baehr; D—O'Grady 3, Strauch 2, M.Kelly, Lipstein, Paetow, B.Kelly; Assists: G—L.Letellier 3, Pagnotta 3, Callahan, Giampalmo. D—O'Grady 2, B.Kelly 2, M.Kelly. Saves: G--McSally 11; D—Hine, 8. Half: G, 7-6.
NO. 3 NDP 15, NO. 4 MARRIOTTS RIDGE 11
Goals: MR—L. Kennedy 4, Hensh 2, C.Blalock 2, G.Kennedy; NDP—Mardiney 3, Mossman 2, Jackson 2, Haus 2, Railey 2, Rosa, Sabourin, Eby, Corbo. Assists: MR—C.Blalock, Thompson; NDP—Mossman 5, Mardiney 2, Barger, Railey Haus. Saves: MR—Ranta 4; NDP—Lowe 6. Half: NDP, 9-5.
NO. 4 MARRIOTTS RIDGE 15, DULANEY 12
Goals: D—Dabkowski 5, Lipstein 2, M. Kelly, Strauch, O'Grady, Griffith, Persinger; MR—C.Blalock 4, S.Blalock 3, L. Kennedy 3, Simpson 2, Hensh 2, Thompson. Assists: D—Lipstein 4, Dabkowski, O'Grady, M.Kelly; MR—C.Blalock, L. Kennedy, Hensh. Saves: D—Hine 11. MR—Ranta, 14. Half: MR, 8-6.