No. 1 McDonogh fought off another challenge to its national high school girls lacrosse win streak Saturday on one of the biggest stages for the girls sport in the Mid-Atlantic.
The Eagles ran their streak to 165 games with an 11-5 win over Good Counsel in the first girls game ever played as part of the PNC Lacrosse Classic at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex.
Although the Eagles (10-0) dominated the draws, they had eight first-half turnovers and half as many ground balls as Good Counsel, which cut down significantly on their possession time. Still they had a 28-15 edge in shots on goal to beat the Falcons for the third straight year. They have won all seven meetings and this one matched the closest margin with the Eagles winning, 12-6, in 2007.
Defender Margaret Donovan said the Eagles were a bit nervous on the big stage.
"It's a big stadium. It's a big game," Donovan said. "Good Counsel is our best competition by far. They came out strong. They came out loud. They came out with energy. It happens. You get a slow start when players get nervous, but I thought we really did well to calm down. We took a timeout, calmed down and we just really pulled it together."
In the second half, the Eagles turned the ball over just once, shut the Falcons out for the first 14:40 and scored the first three goals to boost their lead to 9-4 with 10:49 to go.
While the Eagles are No. 1 in every national poll, the Falcons (6-2), from Olney, are ranked 10th in USA Today's Super 25 and the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25. They tumbled out of the top five after falling to Agnes Irwin (Pa.), 12-11, last week.
McDonogh emerged from a tight first half with a 6-4 lead. With the defense holding the Falcons in check early in the second half, Maddie Jenner and Andie Aldave scored extra-man goals before Aldave scored on a feed from Catie May for the 9-4 lead.
Good Counsel's Taylor McDaniels cut the lead to 9-5 with 10:20 to go, but Jenner answered with a free-position goal with 7:30 left to boost the lead to 10-5. Aldave, who scored three times, won the next draw and the Eagles stalled away more than four minutes before Julia Hoffman hit a free position for her third goal of the game.
Jenner, a 6-foot-1 junior, continued to dominate the draw as she has all season, winning seven of 18 in the game as the Eagles controlled 15. Aldave won five.
Although the Eagles handled the draws, the Falcons forced enough turnovers and off-the-mark shots with an intense quick-sliding defense that in a lot of ways mirrored McDonogh's. The Eagles also jumped the gun on a couple of free-position opportunities in the opening minutes that helped the Falcons score first on Kayla Rieu's goal less than four minutes in.
"Their defense was clearly very fast and very good," said Hoffman, who led the Eagles with three goals and two assists. "They slid well and they packed it in the same way our defense does, so I think it was tough, but it was also beneficial because we play against our defense every day in practice. We knew how to handle them and we knew the different type of plays we had to run to get past them."
Hoffman, a junior attacker who credited her teammates for making plays for each other, scored the Eagles' first goal shortly after Rieu's. May then fed Anna Robinson for a 2-1 lead with 17:21 left and the Eagles never again trailed.
Good Counsel coach Michael Haight said, "I thought our defense was good. We had the weak-side crash coming in really nice. We literally were hedging everything low to keep their girls from inside rolling us and they weren't. We worked all week on not baiting on their fakes. We worked on holding our ground a lot, so it had a little bit of an impact on the game."
He noted the difference in fouls in the second half with Good Counsel picking up 21 to McDonogh's 14 and the Eagles getting seven free-position shots while the Falcons had two.
The Eagles have won eight straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships and haven't lost a game since April 11, 2009. Canandaigua (N.Y.) was the last team to beat them, 12-10. The last Maryland team to beat them was John Carroll, 11-6, in the 2008 A Conference final.
Since that loss, the Eagles have played many of the top teams in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. This fall, they opened their season on a spring break trip to Florida where they defeated top teams from Florida, Georgia and Canada.
Varsity Highlights Newsletter
Get the latest high school sports stories, photos and video from around the region.
On Monday, McDonogh faces another top Mid-Atlantic team when they host defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion Bishop Ireton, from Alexandria, Va., at 4 p.m. The Cardinals (5-3) fell to No. 4 Notre Dame Prep, 14-12, last month.