Savannah Buchanan didn't have much luck in championship games when she first arrived at McDonogh.
After playing on varsity soccer and basketball teams that lost in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference finals her freshman year, Buchanan said one new teammate was a little worried about having her on the varsity lacrosse team that had won four straight titles at that point.
"I remember one of the seniors — one of the first things she said to me at the first practice was, 'I was kind of hesitant for you to make it. You've lost two championships in a row. Make sure you don't make that three,'" Buchanan said with a laugh. "I definitely think I've used that as motivation."
Since then, the junior has played integral roles on six straight A Conference championship teams — two in each sport. Each of those teams has finished the season No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun polls, and the combined record of the teams she's played on over nine seasons is 179-17-2.
With the No.1 and six-time defending champion Eagles lacrosse team riding a 130-game win streak into today's tournament quarterfinal game against Notre Dame Prep, Buchanan has a good shot at adding a seventh straight title on Sunday.
No other girl in Maryland is known to have played on six straight championship teams — in the IAAM or the state public school championships — in three distinctly different sports. A few have played in four straight including Fallston's McKenzie Hannahs in 2010 and McDonogh's Taylor Cummings in 2012.
Buchanan, 17, understands how unique her experience has been.
"Not taking it for granted is so important," she said. "My parents always told me some people never play in a championship their whole entire life and I, fortunately, haven't gone through a season without playing in a championship. I think that really just speaks volumes to the coaches and athletes here. Everyone wants to do their best for the school and for the coaches who have put in so much time and for their teammates."
That outlook also speaks volumes about Buchanan.
She's not the girl in the spotlight although in many ways, she can be the most important player on the team. If she doesn't do all the little things that help the stars make headlines, there aren't six championship medals hanging on the wall in her bedroom.
"I think she's very underrated," lacrosse teammate Elizabeth George said. "She's unselfish and she does whatever she needs to help the team and sometimes that's not going to be scoring the goals and getting in the headlines, but she's our workhorse. She does so much that doesn't get noticed — draw controls, ground balls. I can think of a million things, even just clearing space or marking people up on the ride. There's so many things that don't get noticed that Savannah's all over all the time."
She plays primarily defensive roles in soccer and basketball but had been a two-way midfielder in lacrosse. Last spring, the Eagles needed her to spend most of her time on defense.
"She was really good about that," lacrosse coach Chris Robinson said. "We were very, very young defensively last year and she was our best defender at the time. As a sophomore, she took on that defensive role and also played on our second midfield. She was willing to do anything to help the team and I think it helped that she was going to start."
McDonogh basketball coach Brad Rees has seen that same willingness as the 5-foot-10 Buchanan has come off the bench primarily as a defensive specialist. That's after he almost cut her to junior varsity as a freshman.
Meeting with Buchanan after three days of tryouts, Rees said she told him she thought things had gone well and that she saw herself as a varsity player. He then asked her how good she thought she could be.
"She said, 'How good do you want me to be?' and I said, 'You're on varsity,'" Rees remembered.
"It's that attitude," he said. "She will do whatever you ask of her, whatever you need of her for the team and her to be successful. She will do the little things in the background that aren't going to make her the star, but she's prepared to make that sacrifice. Not many kids will do that anymore."
Eagles soccer coach Harry Canellakis has no doubt that Buchanan would have been a highly recruited soccer player had she wanted to play that sport in college.
"I'm most impressed with Savannah in the preseason," Canellakis said, "because she's playing against kids who've been playing essentially 12 months of the year and her ability to get back into it right away and play at almost the exact same level as at the end of the last season is amazing. It's a testament to her overall athleticism and her intelligence. She's able to pick things up very quickly."
Although Buchanan, who has a 3.9 GPA and would like to become a doctor, has committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame, her time at McDonogh has always been about three sports.
"From the time I was little, I wanted to play every sport I possibly could," she said. "At one point my parents had to sit me down and say, 'You're going to run yourself and you're going to run us to death. You need to pick.'"
She loved soccer first and she quit lacrosse in sixth grade. She missed it so much she came back a year later. In eighth grade, she had to choose because club soccer and club lacrosse conflicted too often to keep playing both.
She picked lacrosse and as she's gone through high school, her experience has cemented that decision. Still, she can't imagine not playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse at McDonogh.
"Playing all three has definitely made me an all-around better athlete," Buchanan said. "I can incorporate things from one sport into another sport. It definitely helps with not getting burned out. I can just have fun and I've met so many new people. That's one of the most special parts about being able to play all three."