The challenges were plentiful for the defending Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland’s A Conference champion No. 1 Eagles, and none were bigger than the title game against then-No. 2 Archbishop Spalding.
Going in, the teams had identical 14-0-2 marks, having tied each other, 2-2, late in the regular season. Another tightly contested game was a given. Instead, Canellakis had his players confident and prepared with a game plan that brought out their absolute best in a stunning 5-0 win. He credited the team’s culture, which was carefully nurtured throughout the season, as the biggest reason for the impressive big-stage performance.
McDonogh players were driven to succeed for one another. Trailing 2-0 in the regular season meeting against the Cavaliers, Canellakis went with a 3-5-2 formation in the second half that helped earn the Eagles the draw. It also gave them a successful blueprint for the title game.
In his 10 seasons at McDonogh, Canellakis has won seven IAAM A championships. In his 15 years of coaching (his first five at Indiana-based Culver Academy), he has a 196-19-12 mark.
Brian Song, River Hill
Song’s 14th season leading the No. 2 Hawks (17-1) ended with similar results as they won their third straight state crown and ninth under his watch. But this was perhaps his most challenging test with significant graduation hits and strong competition in Howard County and Class 2A state play.
After regularly tinkering with the team’s lineup, constantly instilling confidence in his players and asking them to trust one another, Song had River Hill ready for a another fine playoff run that was capped with a 1-0 title win over Walkersville. Along the way, the Hawks beat experienced Wilde Lake for the Howard County crown and again in the South Region playoffs before knocking off Baltimore County champion Hereford in the state semifinal.
Leaning on a 16-goal, five-assist senior season from forward Brigette Wang and a defense anchored by senior center back Danielle Poindexter and freshman goalkeeper Caroline Duffy, River Hill won 17 straight games (13 shutouts) after a season-opening 1-0 loss to Leonardtown.