It would’ve been easy to write off the McDonogh girls lacrosse team after lopsided home losses last month to St. Paul’s and Glenelg Country.
Eagles players, however, decided to write a different story.
After rededicating themselves to winning one-on-one battles on offense and making stops on defense, the Eagles on Tuesday continued their late-season surge, riding four first-half goals from junior Kori Edmondson and senior Kemper Robinson’s free-position goal with 3:10 left to an 8-7 win over Notre Dame Prep in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference semifinals.
“It’s really a tale of two seasons,” Edmondson said. “We put in that work after those two losses … and we’ve really turned it around. We could’ve easily just stopped pushing it, stopped going hard. But we turned it around and we’re proving everyone wrong. People think McDonogh’s not there anymore … but we know we’re not done yet.”
McDonogh (14-2) will get a chance to defend its 2019 A Conference title on Saturday against St. Paul’s, a 10-9 winner over Glenelg Country in the other semifinal. When those teams met three weeks ago, St. Paul’s raced out to a 10-0 lead on its way to a 16-9 win — handing the Eagles their first regular-season loss since 2009 — and McDonogh followed that with an equally deflating 13-3 loss to Glenelg Country.
That’s when players and coaches knew something had to change.
“When we lost twice it was a great gut-check for us,” Eagles coach Taylor Cummings said. “We were exposed at where we needed to improve. Credit to our kids at both ends of the ball; they’ve really made those changes. And I think at the end of the day it was about trust, and trusting our system but also trusting each other. Their camaraderie, particularly at the defensive end, has just gotten so much better.”
“We had a little lack of trust,” Edmondson said, “We had a couple days off, and that’s when I think we really started building chemistry with the team together. We started trusting each other. We all started wanting it, and we all started competing. I think we just started believing in each other.”
That was evident Tuesday, particularly with McDonogh down 7-6 midway through the second half after a pair of goals by Notre Dame Prep’s Nancy Halleron and a goal and assist by Annie Marshall.
That’s when the Eagles’ defense stepped up, holding the Blazers (13-2) scoreless for the final 14:14, including a point-blank save by goalie Marin Wilhelm on Marshall’s hard shot from in front with 2:12 to play.
“It was even-Steven. We got a good shot to tie, but their goalie made a nice save,” NDP coach Mac Ford said. “It could’ve gone either way. They made the play at the end, which was a credit to them.”
“That save and stop was just huge for our momentum,” Cummings said. “There’s no bigger pressure than being a goalie in a one-goal game, and she stepped up huge.”
Meanwhile, McDonogh pulled even on Dakota Uy’s free position with just over five minutes left, then took the lead for good two minutes later when Robinson — playing in a borrowed jersey after her’s got bloodied earlier in the game — scored low on her 8-meter shot.
A late penalty allowed the Eagles to run out the clock, setting up Saturday’s rematch with St. Paul’s. When the teams met in the 2019 finals, McDonogh needed double overtime to pull out the win.
Now, following last month’s ugly loss, the Eagles’ motivation is even higher.
“We’re all motivated. We’re all hungry. Everyone at the end of the day wants to win an IAAM championship,” Edmondson said. “The drive, because we lost, is just to beat them and have a hard-fought game.”
“Last time we met them in the championship it was an overtime game,” Cummings said. “and I expect nothing less than both teams to come out hard and fighting.”
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Goals: NDP-Halleron 2, C. Colimore, E. Colimore, Barger, Burns, Marshall; M-Edmondson 4, Robinson 2, Uy 2. Assists: NDP-Koras 2, Halleron, Marshall; M-Godine. Saves: NDP-Mahle 3, Cain 3; M-Wilhelm 7. Half: Tied, 5-5.