As the first-year girls soccer coach at Archbishop Spalding, Ashly Kennedy has yet to have an up-close look at the rivalry between her No. 1 Cavaliers and No. 2 McDonogh.
But she can certainly relate.
As a standout defender for St. Mary's in the early 2000s, Kennedy played a key role in helping the Saints capture three straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships. The first two -- in 2000 and 2001 -- were against, you guessed it, McDonogh.
The Spalding-McDonogh rivalry in recent years has been the strongest the IAAM has ever seen. The teams have won the past five league titles, with Spalding winning three, including last year's victory over the Eagles that was decided on penalty kicks.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kennedy will get her first taste when the Cavaliers (7-1-1) travel to McDonogh (6-2-2) with the game scheduled for 4 p.m.
Spalding (5-0 in league play) took over the No. 1 ranking in The Baltimore Sun's poll from McDonogh this week after the Eagles (4-1) were shocked by John Carroll, 1-0, last Tuesday.
The Cavaliers have leaned on All-Metro senior goalie Cassidy Babin, strong midfield play from seniors Sarah Martin and Maria Boretti, with balanced offense up top.
Kennedy, who played at Maryland and then became an assistant coach at George Mason, has enjoyed the challenge of maintaining the success that had under former coach Bob Dieterle.
"My philosophy starts with consistent training habits," said Kennedy, who was The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year as a senior in 2002. "At the end of the day, I want the kids to separate from school and everything else they have going on for the 1 1/2-hour practice so we can prepare to the fullest."
The Cavaliers, who have won seven straight after an 0-1-1 start, will look to neutralize McDonogh's powerful attack led by Bridgette Andrzejweski, Casey Martinez and Anna Bialczak. The Eagles also have added incentive from last year's loss to Spalding in the title game, as well as their unexpected loss against John Carroll last week.
"We had a real good meeting [on Monday] with the players and have a good plan," said Kennedy. "We need to go in with energy and focus on the game plan. They have great forwards that can score, so we'll need to capitalize on our opportunities and limit the mistakes in back."