Going into Wednesday’s game at Mercy, No. 1 McDonogh girls soccer had displayed flashes of quality play in winning its first four games.
In a rematch of last year’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title game against the defending champions, it wasn’t a big surprise that the more experienced Eagles produced their most complete 80 minutes in claiming a 3-0 win over the No. 4 Magic.
Elle Long scored on a penalty kick in the first half, Maddie Rose and Kate Levy tacked on second-half goals and the Eagles used precise passes to keep the ball away from Mercy.
McDonogh improved to 5-0 and 2-0 in the IAAM A Conference, while Mercy fell to 3-2 and 0-1.
“In terms of just being able to keep possession, this was probably our most dominant performance of the year so far,” McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis said. “When the kids play unselfishly, it’s great for us in the attacking third, and when you have the ball 75-80% of the time, you’re not giving away corner kicks and free kicks, so I was really happy.”
While the Eagles returned 10 starters from last year’s team, the Magic have a largely new cast that includes three freshmen starters for first-year coach Tom Durkin.
McDonogh’s experience and continuity was evident.
With early pressure, the Eagles were awarded a penalty kick that Long cleanly put away after Levy was taken down by a Mercy defender inside the penalty area on the left side.
While the Magic competed hard and held up well defensively, they were unable to generate much of an attack in a bid to tie the game. Just before the midway point of the second half, freshman forward Ava Hartman made a strong run down the left side, but McDonogh defender Lexi Terry was able to knock her off the ball.
Minutes later, Sabba Haghgoo sent in a through ball to Rose, who hit a heavy shot from 8 yards that goalie Soleil Umbarger (five saves) got her hands on but couldn’t keep out.
“I couldn’t have done it without the great ball through [from Haghgoo] and I was able to finish it,” Rose said. “Then I turned around and saw all my teammates and got excited.”
Four minutes later, Levy made it 3-0, neatly putting away another fine pass from Haghgoo.
“A lot of times in the beginning of the season, I feel like we’re not as connected as we should be,” said Terry, who led the flawless defensive effort. “But I definitely think with the history with Mercy and losing to them last year, it added a lot of fuel to the fire and you could just see everybody wanted to play for each other.”
While his team was overmatched, Durkin, who disagreed with the penalty that led to the Eagles’ first goal, saw positives to build on.
Defenders Camren Blocker and Kendall Atwood were persistent throughout, and Umbarger made a sensational stop in the second half on Zoe Lilly’s one-touch strike from 14 yards.
“That’s a really good team over there, they are loaded. And we knew coming in, especially being such a young team, it would be an uphill battle,” Durkin said. “I loved the work rate, I loved the toughness. I love the compete level. After we laid an egg Monday [in a 3-2 loss to Towson], we really challenged the girls to come out and compete and the girls did that today for 80 minutes.”
McDonogh returns to action Friday in nonconference play when it travels to Pennsylvania-based Episcopal Acadamy with game time set for 4 p.m. Mercy is off for the rest of the week before returning to conference play at 6 p.m. Wednesday when it visits Notre Dame Prep.
Goals: McD — Long, Rose, Levy
Assists: McD — Haghgoo 2
Saves: McD — Schaller 1, Caruso 1; Mercy — Umbarger 5
Half: McD, 1-0