When it comes to McDonogh, nothing has come easy for John Carroll in recent years.
So when the No. 3 Patriots saw their seemingly comfortable three-goal lead slip to one with a little more than a minute left in the McDonogh Invitational's girls soccer championship game yesterday, a final stand proved necessary. No problem.
John Carroll held off the top-ranked Eagles, 3-2, going 3-0 in the two-day tournament to come away with the top prize in the talented eight-team field.
Kourtney Porcella, Erica Korecki and Kate Saul scored the goals and Jen Biscoe had another strong game at midfield to lead the Patriots, who took over in the middle of the first half with constant pressure on the ball.
"Our seniors have never beaten McDonogh, so this was an important game for us and a big game for them," said John Carroll coach Gary Lynch. "Our kids owned the field. They played really hard and everyone pitched in.'
Porcella's opening goal in the 20th minute -- a deflection of Kim Karlinchak's cross from the right side -- seemed to give John Carroll a big lift while the Eagles lost steam after seeing their earlier chances go unrewarded.
The Patriots took advantage, getting an early second-half goal from Erica Korecki -- finishing on her own rebound from 15 yards out after Porcella's hard work down the left side got the ball in front -- and making it 3-0 on a goal from Kate Saul with 22 minutes left.
Both Lynch and McDonogh coach Maurice Boylan agreed the game's first goal was the biggest.
"I think we were a little intimidated early on. This was a big mountain to overcome. But once we got on top, the confidence was there and the game became ours," Lynch said.
Boylan said the Eagles' tough 2-0 win over third-place Bishop O'Connell in yesterday morning's semifinal may have taken its toll. John Carroll advanced to the championship round with a 6-0 win over Ridgeway (Tenn.).
"We had some good chances earlier, put in all that effort and then they scored that first goal. It deflated our team and energized them," Boylan said.
The Eagles struck back with 14 minutes left when Jackie Reid chipped a ball over Patriots keeper Maggie Pyzik, who was caught off her line.
With 1: 30 left, Ali Andrzejewski scored from 30-plus yards out, going high to cut the lead to 3-2.
Last season, graduated Metro Player of the Year Marissa Schuchat scored with 30 seconds left to send the Eagles past John Carroll, 4-3, during the regular season, but there was no late-game magic yesterday.
Just relief for Porcella and the Patriots.
"For us, this was the first time ever doing it," the senior said. Scoring first "definitely helped us. It gave us confidence and showed we can do it."
The two teams will meet again at John Carroll on Oct. 27 in an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland regular-season game.