All season, nothing separated the McDonogh and Archbishop Spalding girls soccer teams.
They came into Saturday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship game with identical 14-0-2 records, each 7-0-1 in league play having played to a 2-2 draw in the regular season. It took a coin flip, which was won by the defending champion Eagles, to determine which team would get the top seed in the playoffs.
Saturday at Anne Arundel Community College was different. It was decisively No. 1 McDonogh’s night.
The Eagles got a goal from Aria Bilal in the first half and then poured it on in the second, Baylee DeSmit’s hat trick the highlight in a stunning 5-0 win over the No. 2 Cavaliers.
The dominating performance made it five league championships in six years and seven for the program.
“We played wonderful. We wanted to play for ourselves, for the team, for the school, for the seniors and I feel we really showed that well,” said DeSmit, a sophomore forward who scored her first two goals in a six-minute stretch early in the second half to help the Eagles pull away. “From the first goal, our momentum got started and we knew we had to get more goals to win this because we knew Spalding was a tough team. I’m just glad I have the teammates who can get me the ball so I can shoot and score.”
The game was played at a high pace with tactical purpose throughout and the Eagles breakthrough came midway through the first half when Bilal, a sophomore forward, entered the game.
After collecting a short pass from All Metro senior Julia Dorsey, she carried the ball left to right before unleashing a shot from 22 yards that found its way in the lower left corner. The goal, coming with 16:12 to play in the half, set the tone for the things to come.
“It was all in the moment, I knew we needed something because nothing was really clicking, so I pointed my toe, took my shot and it went in. It was great,” Bilal said.
Having spent last season’s playoffs on the sidelines following ACL surgery, Dorsey was overwhelmed with Saturday’s performance as she provided season-long leadership and strong two-way play in the back and up front.
“I keep getting really emotional – I love this team so much,” she said. “There’s no culture like it. We have such team camaraderie. We play for each other and I wouldn’t want to be with any other girls. It feels so good to finish champions and unbeaten in my senior year.”
The Cavaliers’ fine season can’t go overlooked on a night when the defending champions were clicking on all cylinders. A fine senior class – led by Jillian Savageau, Abby Hanks, Abby Jeanneault, Jenna Snead and Fifi Iluyomade – were instrumental in a league crown in 2016 and played to this season’s least day with an unbeaten mark.
“This is a great group of girls. When you get in these high intense moments and you prepare – everything is in the air, it’s a game,” Spalding coach Ashly Kennedy said. “I would say these girls, every single one of them, laid it all out. Every one contributed this year and they deserved the season they had.”
She added: “I think McDonogh really came out to play. Hands down, all of their players – every single player – was on. And when you have that, it’s like a force. At the same time, with us, I think certain things didn’t go our way and sometimes that effects the momentum of a game and it shifts the score. I think my team competed, but unfortunately we didn’t get the back end of it.”
The teams have dominated the league for over a decade now with one or the other now winning the past 11 championships.This season was even more remarkable as the defending champion Eagles and the Cavaliers have been ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the area from the opening preseason Top 15 poll.