The math going into Wednesday’s girls soccer rivalry between McDonogh and visiting Archbishop Spalding hinted the host and No. 1 Eagles would have an advantage.
The home team returned all but one starter from last year’s team with an influx of promising talent, while the No. 4 Cavaliers have a largely new cast still finding their way in the early part of the season.
Spalding competed hard and to the end, but McDonogh’s pace and refined work led to a strong 4-2 win in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference opener for both teams.
Freshman Zoe Lilly introduced herself to the rivalry with two goals, senior captain Sabba Haghgoo scored a vital goal early in the second half and goalie Remi Schaller made a special save later to keep the momentum on the Eagles’ side to help secure the win.
McDonogh improved to 3-0 overall, while Spalding fell to 1-1-2.
With McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis emphasizing more energy and precise play at the halftime break, the Eagles delivered in impressive fashion. Two minutes into the second half, Lilly played a through ball to the right flank that found Maddie Rose, who played a quick pass across for Haghgoo that she promptly finished from 12 yards.
It made the score 2-0, and the Eagles — despite the Cavaliers’ competitiveness throughout — were able to close out the big win.
“That’s what we want,” Canellakis said. “We want more combination play in our attacking third and I feel if we get that right, we can be pretty special this year. So that goal is a great example of what we’re looking to do.”
Haghgoo was excited to put away the well-executed work.
“At the half, we talked about coming out stronger, having a better mentality and just fighting for everything because we know Spalding is our big rivals and we really wanted it,” she said. “So starting out with a goal [in the first two minutes] really set us off. Our bench was loud, it made us loud and we really wanted it.”
The Cavaliers, who brought back four starters from last year, proved resilient, but the Eagles were able to stay a step ahead.
Just two minutes after Haghgoo made it 2-0, Spalding got the goal back when midfielder Olivia Nardone sent a heavy shot from 30 yards over Schaller to once again make it a one-goal game.
After Kate Levy chipped a free kick from 22 yards over the wall and past Spalding goalie Maeve Konstantoulas to make it 3-1 with 27 minutes left, Schaller made a point-blank save on a shot from Kelly Dougherty from 6 yards.
Lilly made it 4-1 before the Cavaliers got a goal from Ashley Laycock in the closing minutes.
Unaware of the intense rivalry between the teams that has covered more than a decade — from 2008 to 2021, either McDonogh or Spalding won league titles — Lilly was happy to do her part with the two goals and quality distribution throughout the 80 minutes.
“It was amazing — feels good,” she said. “There’s a lot I still need to work on with some mistakes, but in general I feel like I had a good game, so I’m excited.”
Despite the setback, Spalding coach Ashly Kennedy saw good signs and was pleased with her team’s senior leadership, sighting Nardone, back Maria Cipolla and midfielder Maddie Jones for strong performances. She liked how the Cavaliers stayed tough throughout the first half after falling behind on Lilly’s first goal seven minutes into play.
Spalding responded quickly with its first goal after the Eagles made it 2-0 early in the second half. And the high work rate continued to the end with a second goal coming late.
“We’ve been talking about competing and I definitely think that we showed that today,” Kennedy said. “Against a quality team that’s very technical, the one thing we talked about is not having mistakes because a team like that is going to capitalize. But they’re little things that are very correctable.”
Both teams return to action Monday afternoon with nonconference games on the road. McDonogh visits IAAM B Conference foe Maryvale Prep at 4:15, while Spalding travels to Howard County power Mt. Hebron at 5:30.
Goals: AS — Nardone, Laycock; M — Lilly 2, Haghgoo, Levy
Assists: M — Rose
Saves: AS — Konstantoulas 4; M — Schaller 2
Half: M, 1-0