High School sports

No. 1 Spalding girls soccer delivers complete performance to beat No. 6 Notre Dame Prep, 1-0, in IAAM A opener

With 14 seniors on a talented roster that includes four four-year standouts, the No. 1 Archbishop Spalding girls soccer team has plenty of trust that comes with the valuable experience.

It helps explain why senior midfielder Sophie Thibeault was certain a teammate would be waiting at the far post after her crafty work got the ball there Wednesday against No. 6 Notre Dame Prep.


After settling a throw-in on the right side, Thibeault made a decisive cut to shake a defender, giving her the time and space needed to send a firm ball through the middle. Senior forward Emma Dean was there for an easy finish to score with five minutes left in the first half. The Cavaliers protected the advantage with composed play to close out a 1-0 road win over the Blazers in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference opener for both teams.

Spalding improved to 6-0-1 overall, while Notre Dame Prep fell to 3-1-1.


Thibeault and Dean are two of the Cavaliers’ four seniors who have been on varsity since their freshmen year.

“I sent it to the back post and knew someone will be on the end of it because we also practice that and always want to be hungry in the box and really eager to score and do whatever we can to get on the end of a ball like that,” Thibeault said.

Spalding forward/midfielder Olivia Nardone (26) battles Notre Dame Prep's Mary Sommer (24) for the ball during Wednesday's game at Yeardley Love Field.

The parity in the IAAM this season should make for plenty of tightly contested games. The Cavaliers came up with a full 80-minute effort Wednesday against a team that made them earn the win.

In securing that victory, Spalding played sound defense led by senior center backs Meghan Bernetti and Adriane Skelton. The Blazers got a fine effort from playmaking midfielder Natalie O’Brocki and were able to build up to the Cavaliers’ defensive end to create scoring chances, but they were unable to break through. Spalding goalie Maeve Konstantoulas made four saves in the Cavaliers’ sixth shutout of the season.

“It’s definitely a challenge [protecting a lead against a good opponent] and I think we held up pretty well,” Bernetti said. “Everyone was connecting and talking — I think communication is a huge part of it, definitely — and we were clearing the balls out when we needed to and just taking those big moments and having everybody step up.”

The Blazers challenged the Cavaliers’ back line right after halftime with Becca Blunt and O’Brocki both sending in crosses to the middle that were effectively cleared. With 9:18 left, O’Brocki cleanly struck a free kick from 30-plus yards that went just high over the crossbar.

With under two minutes to play, the Cavaliers were able to string together a few passes to chew the clock and close out a win that left coach Ashly Kennedy extremely pleased.

Spalding goalkeeper Maeve Konstantoulas saves a shot as Notre Dame Prep's Natalie O'Brocki (10) moves in during Wednesday's game at Yeardley Love Field.

“The one thing we’ve been building toward is being consistent,” she said. “Being able to be a full 80-minute team instead of maybe a half or switching it on or if a goal gets scored on us [triggering our ability to play]. So I’m really proud of the group for their effort for 80 minutes and playing a complete game.”

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While disappointed by the setback, the Blazers kept it close against the area’s top-ranked team without standout forward Tricia Kohler. Kohler, who was injured playing over the summer, is expected back in two weeks to provide the Blazers with an offensive spark.

“One thing I told my team before we went into league play is it’s going to be a battle with every single team and it’s going to come down to which team made the fewest mistakes,” Kennedy said. “I thought we had the better of the play and one simple breakdown when we got caught on the back side and we’re down 1-0 and having to claw back. We had every opportunity to equalize and go ahead and our Achilles’ heel has been finding the back of that net.”

Notre Dame Prep will try to bounce back Tuesday when it travels to No. 5 Mercy at 4 p.m. Spalding returns to action Wednesday with a home game against league foe John Carroll at 4 p.m.

Goals: AS -- Dean

Assists: AS -- Thibeault

Saves: AS -- , 4; NDP -- Itzoe 6


Half: AS, 1-0