For the first time in four years, there will be a new field hockey champion in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.
Freshman Andi Aldave scored 4:36 into sudden death overtime Wednesday, giving visiting No. 7 McDonogh a 3-2 semifinal win over No. 6 Garrison Forest, the league's three-time defending champion.
The win gives the Eagles (14-3-1) a shot at their first-ever A Conference title in their fourth year in the league. They previously had won three straight B Conference titles, ending in 2009.
"This is what this team has been working for since day one," McDonogh coach Halyna Fried said. "The way these guys have gelled together as a team … it's just like a dream come true."
The Eagles will face No. 5 Archbishop Spalding, a 1-0 winner over Bryn Mawr in the other semifinal. The championship game is set for noon Sunday at Goucher College.
To get there, McDonogh had to overcome a 2-1 deficit midway through the second half, after Garrison Forest got back-to-back goals from Allie DiPietro and Hailey Mules within a span of four minutes.
With her players somewhat rattled, Fried called a timeout to refocus her team.
"It was about getting their composure back and just getting them to believe they could do it," Fried said. "They had the chance to just kind of settle down and put their game back on the field."
The move paid off. With just 2:55 left, senior Madison Ewing tied the game off a feed from Brindi Griffin following a penalty corner, forcing sudden-death overtime.
There, with a more wide-open 7-on-7 format, each team had golden opportunities. Griffin nearly ended it just 1:30 in, clanking a hard shot off the near post.
Minutes later, following a big save at the other end by goalie Hannah Gizzi, junior Elizabeth George raced the ball up the sideline and fed Griffin, who sent it across the middle to the waiting Aldave.
"I saw the ball coming across, and I knew I was right there on the post," Aldave said. "I just took two taps and smacked it in."
The goal touched off a wild celebration for McDonogh, while signaling the end of an era, of sorts, for Garrison Forest (17-4).
"We had a couple of opportunities, and we just didn't convert," Grizzlies co-coach Traci Davis said. "This is a game of inches, and we missed it a couple of times."
The result, while painful, left Davis bullish about the future of the program. The once-dominant Grizzlies had entered this season with only two returning starters and lost to McDonogh, 6-2, just last month.
"I think if you want to look at a team that could be considered as most improved from the start of the season to the end of the season, it's Garrison," Davis said. "These guys left it all out there today, but their improvement was exponential. While we're disappointed about today, we're optimistic about the future."
IAAM A Conference
McDonogh 3, Garrison Forest 2
Goals: M-George, Ewing, Aldave; GF-DiPietro, Mules. Assists: M-Griffin; GF-Jarrett 2. Saves: M-Gizzi 10; GF-Yavalar 12. Half: McDonogh, 1-0.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun