Notre Dame Prep's girls lacrosse team had a couple of leads on No. 1 McDonogh on Thursday, but once the Eagles kicked their offense into gear, they continued their record-book roll.
Visiting McDonogh broke out of a one-goal deficit late in the first half to score seven straight times for a 9-4 victory that extends its national girls lacrosse record to 171 consecutive wins.
In beating the No. 3 Blazers, the Eagles (16-0) remain the only team unbeaten in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference and have clinched the top seed for the tournament at 11-0 with one conference game left.
"This was definitely our top competitor," Eagles attacker Julia Hoffman said. "They're a great team, super athletic, super fast, and I bet we're going to see them again in playoffs, but this was, I think, the biggest game that we've had this season. Obviously, we look at it one game at a time, but I think in the back of everyone's mind, NDP was the team we had to beat, so it was a big game for us."
Blazers center Jordan Sabourin won the first draw and after the ball went up and down the field several times, Gil Eby scored on a free position to give NDP (16-2, 9-1) the initial lead. McDonogh, however, would win every other draw in the half and win 10 of 15 in the game.
Julia Dorsey answered Eby's goal on a free position to tie the game before Eby added another goal, finding space to cut across in front of the cage and skip the ball low past Eagles goalie Julia Cooper (eight saves).
Eagles center Maddie Jenner, who finished with eight draw controls, won five of the next six and Andie Aldave won the other on the circle as McDonogh scored four goals in less than three minutes. Julia Dorsey won a ground ball off an NDP turnover and passed to Hoffman, who fed Emma Schettig to tie the game at 2 with 6:35 to go in the half.
Anna Robinson fed Rachel Anderson, Catie May assisted Hoffman and Hoffman added a goal with 3:45 left. Jenner scored on a free position with 1:14 left and the Eagles led 6-2 at the half. The Blazers never had possession during that run.
"I was really proud of our kids. We were down early and there was not an ounce of panic," said Eagles coach Chris Robinson, whose team has trailed early several times this season. "We've been preaching that this was going to be a tough game. We knew our opponent was going to be super and they were very talented, well coached. We just wanted to see what it would be like for 50 minutes. We responded really well ... and we played a really smart game overall."
After the break, the Eagles defense clamped down on the Blazers and they turned the ball over six times in a defensive struggle in which McDonogh broke through twice. Schettig, who finished with three goals, made it 7-2 and May fed Megan Mix for an 8-2 lead with 7:59 to go. Cooper also had three saves to that point.
The Eagles' Nicole Alecce face-guarded NDP's top offensive threat, Hannah Mardiney, and held her to one assist but not until 6:35 remained in the game.
"I thought they had a really good game plan," Mardiney said of the Eagles' defense. "Obviously, they face-guarded me and we had trouble getting the ball to Caitlynn [Mossman] behind, which definitely was different. Not many teams have done that. They were really quick to double, just all around really quick."
While both teams had their lowest offensive outputs of the season, the Eagles have limited teams to 4.7 goals per game and have allowed just one to reach double figures. NDP, which came into the game averaging 14.1 goals, is the 12th opponent they've held to five or fewer goals.
"They're a very athletic team," Dorsey said of NDP, "so we focused a lot on matching that athleticism, double-teaming the ball, communication on the defensive end, because our defense is also very athletic, so we just tried to match that and pressure the ball."
The Eagles, who last lost to Canandaigua, N.Y., on April 11, 2009, haven't lost to a Maryland team since May 2008, when they fell to John Carroll in the A Conference final. The previous national-record girls lacrosse winning streak was 104, set by Mount Hebron.
While the Eagles are No. 1 in all the national polls, the Blazers are highly ranked as well. They slipped a little after falling to The Baltimore Sun's No. 2, Glenelg, two weeks ago but are No. 6 in the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 and No. 8 in USA Today's Super 25.
Coach Mac Ford's team has two games left and can earn the No. 2 seed in the IAAM A Conference tournament with one more win. The Blazers haven't beaten McDonogh since 2006, and their aim, of course, is to meet the Eagles in the tournament. That would likely have to come in the title game May 13.
"That would be awesome," Mardiney said. "I would love to have another shot at them now that we see how we match up with them. It's great to know that we could get another chance if we continue to do well."
Goals: NDP—Eby 2, Regan, Railey; M—Schettig 3, Hoffman 2, Dorsey, Anderson, Jenner, Mix. Assists: NDP—Mardiney; M—May 2, Hoffman, Robinson. Saves: NDP—Lowe 10; M—Cooper 8. Half: M, 6-2.