Without being specific about which area of her team needed fixing the most after last year's 5-11 record, Notre Dame Prep coaches Mary Bartel and Lisa Costello said that, at least for now, they have solved the problem.
On Friday in Brooklandville, the No. 6 Blazers (6-2, 6-1 league) continued to show how well they have embraced their makeover by topping No. 4 St. Paul's, 11-8, to grab sole possession of second place in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference behind No. 1 and undefeated McDonogh.
St. Paul's (4-2, 4-3) dropped its second conference game in a row after starting the season with four consecutive wins under former Maryland All-America defender Courtney Martinez Connor.
"We told the players to forget about last year," Bartel said about the Blazers' worst record in at least a decade. "And I think the kids felt the same way."
"We told them to shut out the noise from outside and focus on themselves," Costello added. "Our seniors have led the charge."
They also led the charge against St. Paul's, pulling Notre Dame Prep out of an early 2-0 hole after freshman Ashlyn McGovern and junior midfield mate Julia Braig struck first for the Gators.
Seniors Georgia Tunney, Mae Tarr and Caroline Drusano answered for the Blazers, giving them a short-lived, 3-2 lead with 14:19 left in the opening half.
After junior Liza Liotta scored the first of a game-high three goals to tie the score for the Gators, the Blazers rallied for consecutive goals by Tunney, freshman Keegan Barger, junior Shannon Murphy and senior Morgan Bracken to grab a 7-3 lead. Liotta's buzzer-beater sliced the lead to 7-4 at the half.
St. Paul's, after failing to score despite having a two-man advantage, eventually drew even on goals by junior attack Kerri Clayton, sophomore midfielder Haley Wells and Liotta before the Blazers inched back ahead, 8-7, on Tarr's second score.
When Liotta's apparent fourth goal was disallowed because of an illegal stick with 10:33 to go, momentum swung back to Notre Dame Prep.
The Blazers made the most of their good fortune when freshman attacker Grace Haus and senior midfielder Molly Cobb restored a three-goal lead with less than eight minutes remaining.
Offsetting goals down the stretch by Clayton and Drusano maintained the distance between the rivals.
Last year, especially when the going got tough, the Blazers might have faded after the Gators' rally.
"We stayed cool, calm and collected," said Cobb, a plans to play college lacrosse at Notre Dame. "Last year, we were just doing too much one-on-one. Today, we worked together and moved the ball on attack."
Connor said that St. Paul's inexplicably stopped doing what it does best.
"It's tough to win when you're not following the game plan the way you should," she said. "We have the players and we have the skills. It's just a matter of trusting each other."
No. 6 Notre Dame Prep 11, No. 4 St. Paul's 8
Goals: ND-Barger, Bracken, Cobb, Drusano 2, Haus, Murphy, Tarr 2, Tunney 2. SP-Clayton 2, Braig, Liotta 3, Wells, McGovern
Assists: ND-Burns, Murphy, Regan, Tunney SP-Yaffe 2, Liotta 2
Saves: ND-Darlington 6 SP-Lucas 5
Half: ND 7-4