Can the No. 1 McDonogh girls soccer team be stopped in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference playoffs, which are set to start Tuesday?
The Eagles (11-2-2) have all the ingredients needed to capture the program's third title in four years. They have an abundance of talented players, led by Bridgette Andrzejewski, Anna Bialczak and Casey Martinez. They have the motivation from last year's heartbreaking title game loss to defending champion Archbishop Spalding, which was decided on penalty kicks. And they have overwhelming numbers to support the claim, having outscored their conference opponents by a whopping 58-1 margin in going 9-1 in league play.
McDonogh's only loss came in a 1-0 upset loss to John Carroll on Oct. 8 and it served as a wake-up call. The Eagles' next league game was a highly-anticipated showdown against No. 4 Spalding one week later, which they dominated, 5-0.
In beating McDonogh, John Carroll made sure to have plenty of defenders behind the ball, withstood countless pressure and got a goal from senior captain Sophie Centi with 29 seconds left in regulation to pull off the monumental upset.
A similar effort will be needed from a team in the playoffs to pull off a win against the Eagles, who open at home against Notre Dame Prep. In the regular-season meeting on Oct. 10, McDonogh came away with a 7-0 win over the Blazers.
Spalding, which opens at home against Bryn Mawr on the opposite side of the bracket from McDonogh, appears to be the team most qualified to give the Eagles a significant push. Following the loss to McDonogh, Cavaliers first-year coach Ashly Kennedy said the setback was a valuable learning tool to see what was needed to keep up with the Eagles.
The Cavaliers have players that have been in and won plenty of big games, led by senior goalie Cassidy Babin and senior midfielder Sarah Martin.
Following Tuesday's quarterfinal round, the semifinals are set for Thursday, with the championship game taking place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Anne Arundel Community College.
Here's a look at Tuesday's quarterfinal schedule (all games are set for 3:30 p.m.):
Notre Dame Prep at McDonogh
Mercy at Severn
Bryn Mawr at Archbishop Spalding
John Carroll at Mount de Sales