For 18 minutes, 42 seconds last night, the top-ranked McDonogh Eagles were in a position they'd been in only twice before this season.
But falling behind St. Mary's seemed to bring out the best in the undefeated Eagles, who put their game into high gear and rolled to a 5-2 win in the semifinal round of the Catholic League A Division Tournament at Patterson Park.
Top-seeded McDonogh, 18-0 and ranked No. 5 nationally by USA Today, advances to tomorrow's 5:15 final against third-seeded John Carroll, a 3-1 winner over No. 15 Mercy in the other semifinal.
McDonogh had trailed two other times this season, against Mercy and Loch Raven, but turned things around quickly in both, scoring two goals in less than two minutes to take the lead.
With that experience, McDonogh co-coaches Ted Scocos and Maurice Boylan said they weren't concerned about trailing a third time.
"We were anything but concerned," said Boylan. "We've trailed twice during the season, and each time we came right back and took the lead. As soon as we score a goal, we take off."
For much of the game, taking off was a fair description of the Eagles' offense, which outshot the defending tournament champion Saints 30-3, including 17-1 in the second half.
But the Eagles also remained tied with St. Mary's until midway through the second half.
The Saints (9-7-3) scored both goals off set plays. The first came off the foot of Jacqui Saunders, who booted a direct free kick into the top left corner of the net from 15 yards out to make it 1-0 just over 11 minutes into the game.
After goals by McDonogh's Susan Pitt and Laurie Schwoy -- the latter after a dazzling dribbling sequence in which she received the ball and faked out two defenders -- Saunders again scored on a direct kick,
from 19 yards on the right side, to tie the score at 2 with 23:55 left.
But from there, it was all McDonogh.
Three minutes later, the Eagles' Alison Schroeder gave her team the lead for good, controlling a loose ball in heavy traffic and putting a short-range shot past Erin Hon to make it 3-2.
Kara Cristaldi and Nicole Wittlesberger scored down the stretch for the final margin.
Midfielder Christina Coroneos (one assist) said that the Eagles were driven to play harder by the physical style of play.
"They hit a nerve here and there," said Coroneos.
"They made us really want to show them who's on top."
Schwoy, however, said she was a little more worried than most of her teammates after McDonogh fell behind.
"I knew we'd score, but we were pressing," said the standout sophomore. "St. Mary's played a great game. From the two previous times we played [5-0 and 3-0 McDonogh wins], they just picked it up a notch."