Trailing by two with time quickly running out on its season, top-ranked McDonogh couldn’t afford to lose its poise in Saturday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final at Gerstell Academy.
Unable to push virtually anything past St. Paul’s goalie Leah Wareheim, the Eagles needed to find an answer to avoid a second-straight upset on their biggest stage of the season.
But unlike their loss in the finals a year ago, this time they found one.
Goals by Blair Pearre and Emma Schettig in the final 4:14 forced overtime, where, following several heart-stopping moments at both ends, junior Izzy Marsh scored the winner with 14.8 seconds left in the second sudden-death overtime period in a 5-4 win.
“They were calm, cool, collected, and they knew what to do,” McDonogh coach Taylor Cummings said. “I’m incredibly proud of their resiliency, their determination, and them not hitting the panic button when a lot of other teams would have.”
“Our team was just thinking the whole time, `six minutes, six minutes left. Just give it everything we have,’” Abernathy said. “Fake on our shots, be clean with everything we do and just hustle… leave it all out on the field.”
St. Paul’s (12-10), which already had taken McDonogh to overtime in early April, outplayed the Eagles for much of the second half, led by the play of sophomore Wareheim (11 saves) in goal.
In the end, the Gators came up agonizingly short.
“It was one more play. We needed to make one more play,” St. Paul’s coach Mary Gagnon said. “That was it. They made one more play then we did.”
With the win, McDonogh (21-0) took back the championship it had held for nine straight years prior to last season, when Notre Dame Prep ended the Eagles’ national-record 198-game winning streak in the finals.
They were determined to avoid a similar scenario.
“For the girls to come full circle… this has been the goal in the back of their minds all year,” Cummings said. ”We only really started talking about winning the championship after our win on Wednesday [in the semifinals]. They’ve had great grit and determination throughout the season.”
After coming back late in games several times during the season, McDonogh this time faced perhaps its biggest test to date, coming up empty on short after shot, and scoring just two goals in the first 45:46.
“Their goalie was incredible. I think she could’ve stood on top of her head and she would’ve saved it,” Cummings said. “Our message once we found out we were playing St. Paul’s was to try to move her as best as we can. We scored the amount we needed to score, but I think we were like 5-for-25 [shooting].”
After waging a defensive battle for most of the game, the Gators, who got two goals by junior Alex Pirisino, surged to a 4-2 lead on a free position to the top-right by Shelton Sawers followed by a close-range goal by Caroline Pearce with 7:24 to play in regulation.
Tied at 4 in overtime, McDonogh seemed intent on keeping possession for most of each 3-minute period, and finally got the break it needed when/ Following a missed shot, Marsh received a feed on the side of the net, and cut right and fired a hard shot toward the low corner.
“I was wide open, so I just decided to take it,” Marsh said. “We were trying to shoot low, because we knew [Wareheim] was really good high. We really needed to fake her and move her the whole game. I think toward the end we started realizing that.”
Wareheim dislocated her shoulder trying to make the final save, according to Gagnon.
The loss was the fifth this season in overtime for St. Paul’s, which overcome several injuries, including the loss of two key starters before the start of the pre-season, to put itself in position for its first title since 2006.
Despite entering the tournament as the sixth seed in succession knocked off No. 3-seed Notre Dame Prep – the defending A Conference champion – and No. 2-seed Glenelg Country, both by identical 9-8 scores in overtime.
“I’m just so proud of this team. All 24 of them,” Gagnon said. “The energy on the sideline, every single one gave their heart and soul. We didn’t get that one last break that we needed today, but we battled all the way down to the last shot.”
Goals: SP-Pirisino 2, Sawers, Pearce; M-Abernathy 2, Schettig, Pearre, Marsh. Assists: SP-Sawers; M-Pearre, Dorsey. Saves: SP-Warheim 11; M-Hammerschlag 1; Geoghan 3. Half: McDonogh, 2-1.
Pallotti 8, Concordia 7, OT: Senior Quai Skeete Ridley bounced a free-position shot into the net 11 seconds into overtime, the last of her game-high six goals, as St. Vincent Pallotti rallied from a four-goal deficit to top Concordia, 8-7, in Saturday's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference lacrosse final at Gerstell Academy.
Pallotti (17-3), which had lost to the Saints by a goal during the regular season, trailed 5-1, in the first half before rallying for its first title since 2008. Consecutive goals by Skeete Ridley brought Pallotti to within one, and sophomore Ally Miller forced overtime off a feed from Skeete Ridley.
“We were just like, `We need to dig deep,’ " said Skeete Ridley, who will continue her career at Howard University. "We had to leave everything out on the field and give it our all.”
Sophomore Kelsey King had three goals and an assist and junior Samantha Lassahn added two goals and an assist for the Saints (16-2), who had won 16 straight entering the day.
Goals: P-Skeete-Ridley 6, Robertson, Miller; C-King 3, S. Lassahn 2, Franker, Godat. Assists: P-Skeete-Ridley. C-S. Lassahn, V. Lassahn, King. Saves: C-Meyer 3; P-Eubanks 4, Onyenwe 1. Half: Concordia, 6-3.
Mercy 9, AACS 3: In the span of six days, the Mercy lacrosse team’s three-win regular season in the conference became a distant memory.
After closing the regular season with losses in 10 of their final 12 games, the Magic won three straight playoff games, capped off by Saturday’s victory over Annapolis Area Christian School in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference final.
Mercy, the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, won its third straight conference title and fourth since 2011.
“Everything came together in the playoffs,” Mercy coach Brian Casserly said. “Everything was close during the season. We had a bunch of one-goal losses. We talk every season at the beginning of the year about there’s really only three games that matter.”
Mercy’s victory on Saturday came against an AACS team it fell to twice in the regular season, once by two goals and another by a goal. The Magic lost nine games by a goal or two, including three in overtime. After going 3-9 in the conference, they won their three playoff games by a combined 37-23.
“It wasn’t that hard to convince them. I think they knew what was going on,” Casserly said. “They knew we played some really good games. They knew they were there and they knew they could do it.”
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-- Bob Hough, Baltimore Sun Media Group