Alexandria, Va. — Since McDonogh's girls lacrosse winning streak began nine years ago, 43 opponents have tried to end it, most of them multiple times.
Bishop Ireton tried for the fourth time Monday, and although the Cardinals came closer than they had in the past, the result was no different. In a clash of the No. 1 teams in The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post polls, the Eagles took an early lead and held off a rally for a 14-8 victory and their 189th straight win.
Until Monday, the Cardinals (10-2) hadn't come closer than within 10 goals of McDonogh (12-0), but the Eagles always expect a tough battle from the two-time defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions.
Junior midfielder Blair Pearre, who scored two goals and won key possessions off draws and ground balls, said the Eagles spent a lot of time watching film and preparing.
"We came up with some new things to put out there for them, because they play this weird backer type of 'D,' which is new and hard for us, so we just came out strong and prepared, and I think that's what really got us off to a good start," said Pearre, who scored the first goal one minute into the game.
While the Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the Nike/US Lacrosse High School Girls Lacrosse National Top 25, the Cardinals are No. 8.
They pulled within one twice, but the Eagles ended the first half with four straight goals for a 7-2 lead. After Aubrey Williams scored for Bishop Ireton to open the second half, Julia Hoffman reeled off three straight goals to push the lead to 10-3 with 21:25 left.
Ireton gained a little momentum with a 3-1 run that included two goals from Sydney Foster.
The Eagles defense, however, kept them in control in the second half.
"There was a period in the game near the end of the second half," Cardinals coach Rick Sofield said, "where we turned the ball over on six straight possessions … and when we got the seventh possession, their goalie made a really nice save on us, so we had seven possessions where we came away with nothing."
Eagles goalie Julia Cooper made three of her nine saves in the final 11 minutes.
The Cardinals, whose only other loss was to Notre Dame Prep, struggled with McDonogh's defense most of the game, turning the ball over 14 times. A turnover caused by Izzy Marsh led to Pearre's opening goal.
Defenders Ava Class, Hannah Rothe, Abbie Wilhelm, Sam Thacker and midfielders Schettig, Tilson and Kayla Abernathy along with Cooper lead a unit that has allowed only one team to score in double figures this season.
"I think our defense really stepped up big for us today," Eagles first-year coach Nancy Love said. "In the middle of the field, on our ride, they just were on it today."
During their streak, which began April 13, 2009, the Eagles have beaten teams from nine states, the District of Columbia and Ontario. The players enjoy the chance to step outside the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference that they've won nine years in a row.
"It's something new," Pearre said. "We get to play new people, play new teams, go against new competition, and it's just great for our team. We get to learn new things like we did today, how to play against a new defense, and it was just awesome."
To Sofield, McDonogh's continuing streak is no surprise.
"There's a saying in sports, 'Culture doesn't graduate,' '' Sofield said, "and I think their culture is strong enough now where it can survive the coaching change. They just have such a strong culture and you can see that with the alumni that are coming back and helping out and coaching. That's part of that culture also, and that's the model that everyone else wants to emulate."
The Eagles face another WCAC opponent Wednesday when they host Good Counsel.
Some of their toughest local opponents come after that — No. 10 Archbishop Spalding on Friday, No. 5 Marriotts Ridge on Monday, No. 7 Bryn Mawr, on April 25, No. 2 Glenelg Country on April 27 and a rematch of last year's A Conference title game with No. 3 Notre Dame Prep on April 30.
Goals: M—Hoffman 4, Jenner 3, Pearre 2, Tilson 2, Schettig 2, Marsh; B—Foster 3, Mote, Ledoyen, Lantuh, Williams, Kludner. Assists: M—Marsh 2, Abernathy, Hoffman, Jenner; B—Mote. Saves: M—Cooper 8; B—Bowan 9. Half: M, 7-2.