It has become a rite of passage in recent years in girls soccer: McDonogh vs. Archbishop Spalding for the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship.
With two-time defending league champion and No. 1 McDonogh handling John Carroll, 5-0, and No. 5 Spalding defeating Notre Dame Prep by the same score in Saturday's semifinals, the teams will meet in the title game for the third straight year.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. Monday at Stevenson University in Owings Mills.
McDonogh, which has maintained the area's No. 1 ranking throughout the season, takes a 17-1 mark into the game, while Spalding is 14-3-1. The Eagles went to Spalding on Sept. 28 and earned a 1-0 win over the Cavaliers in the regular season.
Riding an eight-game winning streak, with the last five coming by way of shutouts, the Cavaliers feel they are playing their best ball of the season, knowing that's what it will take to beat McDonogh.
"We knew we had a rough patch we had to get through, but it made everybody stronger," said Spalding coach Bob Dieterle, who is stepping down following Monday's championship game after 11 seasons with the school. "After John Carroll [a 1-0 loss], I sent the kids a long text to keep your head up, we're going to win this thing and everybody just came together and we've been on a roll. We've opened up the offense some and the kids are playing really well so that's what you want — to be playing well at the end of the season."
At Spalding on Saturday, senior forward Mo Ostrowski made sure the Cavaliers would return to Monday's championship with a dominating three-goal performance, her third hat trick of the season.
In the 13th minute, she had time and space inside the visitors' penalty area, unleashing a left-footed shot that Notre Dame Prep goalkeeper Victoria Gabor couldn't keep out of the net.
Ostrowski made it 2-0 later in the half, finishing off another left-footed chance, this one from 18 yards with 18 minutes until intermission. Her third goal and 16th of the season came 15 minutes into the second half to push the advantage to 3-0.
"We knew going into the game Notre Dame Prep was going to play tough, so we really came in with the mindset that we had to come out harder and worked out well," Ostrowski said. "Now that we won, our mindset is totally on McDonogh. We know it's going to be tough and we definitely to everyone on the same page and working together. We all really, really want it bad, so that's huge, too."
At McDonogh, the Eagles' semifinal win over John Carroll played out much the same way, with the home team jumping out to a 2-0 halftime lead and never being pushed. The Patriots were forced to play one short due to a red card infraction in the first half. Junior midfielder Anna Bialczak scored two goals and Bridgette Andrzejewski, Jordan Pearson and Kyla Clark also scored.
The Eagles, who are ranked No. 10 nationally by the NSCAA, appear primed to defend their championship, well aware it won't come easy.
"It was fantastic. I thought everybody — even the players [who] came off the bench played really well," McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis said. "Spalding always presents the same sort of challenge — physical play and maybe a little more direct than we are. It's always good, whether it's a regular season game or a playoff game — McDonogh-Spalding games are always competitive."
1 McDonogh 5, John Carroll 0
Goals: M – Bialczak 2, Andrzejewski, Clark, Pearson.
Assists: M – Horine, Jenner.
Saves: JC – Cumpston 11, Sipos 1; M – Clark 2.
Half: M, 2-0
5 Spalding 5, Notre Dame Prep 0
Goals: S – Ostrowski 3, Patterson, Heck
Assists: S – Duffey, Heck, Martin
Saves: NDP – Gabor 4; S – Babin 3, Willard 1.
Half: S, 2-0.