The Archbishop Spalding girls lacrosse team came to McDonogh energetic, loose and primed for an upset.
And for most of Thursday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference opener, that’s just what the Cavaliers looked as if they might get. They controlled play from the outset, winning the majority of early draws and building a lead they kept well into the second half.
But 10 months after watching their national-record 198-game winning streak come to a stunning end, the Eagles weren’t about to go down again.
Top-ranked McDonogh scored three straight goals to take its first lead midway through the second half, then won it on a solo effort by attacker Izzy Marsh with 18.1 seconds left in a 6-5 win over No. 6 Spalding in a battle of defenses… and wills.
“I think inside we all had this gut feeling that we could come back and do this,” Marsh said. “I didn’t have that lingering ‘oh my gosh’ feeling the entire time, like I used to have with the streak.”
New McDonogh coach Taylor Cummings, a former three-time Tewaaraton Award winner at Maryland, said the early test will pay dividends down the road for her squad, which lost three All-Metro players to graduation.
“We’ve had three scrimmages, but a real game is a different beast,” Cummings said. “We came out with a really tough conference opponent, and it was just a lot going on. I’m really proud of the way they handled the pressure. They were down the entire game. I think that resiliency early on proves a lot.”
Junior Kristin O’Neill scored four goals for the Cavaliers (1-1), who took a 4-2 lead when the midfielder finished a feed from Abigail Scully 3:18 into the second half.
The difference in this one, however, was draw controls. After losing four of six in the first half, the Eagles, led by junior Kayla Abernathy, won six straight after the break, giving them possession for large swaths of time.
Draw controls had been a question mark for McDonogh (1-0) after graduating Maddie Jenner (now at Duke), considered the nation’s top draw specialist a year ago. In the second half, however, the Eagles’ found their rhythm around the circle.
“I think the area we needed to improve on was on the offensive end, but it all starts with winning the draw, and in the second half, both sets of our middies did a fantastic job of winning it, particularly off the circle,” Cummings said. “That kind of gave our offense a bit of a chance to settle in and work it.”
McDonogh took its first lead on Blair Pearre’s free position with 12:44 left, but Spalding answered with just 1:31 to play, when Haley Urgo converted a free position.
Another draw control gave the Eagles the ball again, setting the stage for Marsh, who cut hard to her right, jumped and fired into the corner of the net.
“It’s all up to us to work together and make space for each other, so that whenever we see an opening we can take that opening,” Marsh said. “When we didn’t have a lot of time left, we used the space and just I took the shot.”
For Archbishop Spalding, the afternoon may not have ended with a win, but it did prove to be a valuable learning experience.
“This team is ready,” Cavaliers coach Tara Restly said. “To put a game like that together – it just comes down to a couple plays. I told the girls, ‘If you’re going to end up on this side of the game, you want it to be now. You don’t want to end on this side.’ We’re going to build from this.”
Goals: AS-O’Neill 4, Urgo; M- Marsh 2, Pearre 2, Blaze, Little. Assists: AS-Bates, Scully. Saves: AS-Gunning 6; M-Geoghan 4, Hammerschlag 4. Half: AS, 3-2.