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No. 1 McDonogh girls lacrosse tops Novato (Calif.), 14-6, for 180th straight win

McDonogh attacker Julia Hoffman (10) during the IAAM A Conference girls lacrosse semifinal in 2017.
McDonogh attacker Julia Hoffman (10) during the IAAM A Conference girls lacrosse semifinal in 2017. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

McDonogh’s No. 1 girls lacrosse team survived the week of upsets — and it wasn’t even close.

The Eagles’ national-record winning streak climbed to 180 games as they defeated Novato (Calif.), 14-6, on Saturday to finish spring break in Florida with a 3-0 start to the season. The Hornets (5-1) were the toughest team the Eagles faced on the trip, pulling within two late in the first half before McDonogh closed it out with a 9-3 run.

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While the Eagles kept rolling, the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference was turning upside down at home. No. 2 Glenelg Country School, last season’s No. 5 team, defeated No. 3 Notre Dame Prep, 10-9, on Tuesday. Then Maryvale, which won only one conference game last season, surprised No. 10 Roland Park, 12-7, on Friday.

Down in Vero Beach, Fla., the Eagles picked up where they left off in May when they capped their eighth straight undefeated season with their ninth straight A Conference championship. Under new coach Nancy Love, they rolled over their first two opponents — Vero Beach, 16-3, and The Hill Academy from Ontario, Canada, 18-5 — before getting a stronger test from Novato.

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“While McDonogh is a strong team,” Love said, “we’re new in a lot of ways with a whole new coaching staff and some new players and this was a good trip for us to have to kind of work together and bond and figure some things out. We continue to do that with every game. It might be difficult for people to understand that because they just see McDonogh as a winning program, but we’re learning, we’re growing from every game.”

The Eagles needed a big performance from senior goalie Julia Cooper, who had nine saves against Novato, located just north of San Francisco and about an hour from Stanford, where she will play next season.

While McDonogh is No. 1 in the US Lacrosse National Girls Top 25, Novato is No. 22. The Hornets have won three straight North Coast Section Division I championships and they know what a win streak means. They had won 43 straight games until falling to Davis (Calif.), 10-9, last April.

The Hornets also boast the best attacker in the west, senior Charlie Rudy. She earned US Lacrosse’s West Region Girls Player of the Year last spring after scoring 160 goals, which is believed to be a national record, and dishing out 62 assists. Cooper and the Eagles defense, led by Sam Thacker, Hannah Rothe, Ava Class and Abbie Wilhelm, held her to just two goals.

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Rudy, however, gave the Hornets a quick lead 48 seconds into the game. The Eagles answered with four straight goals from Emma Tilson, Blair Pearre, Izzy Marsh and Maddie Jenner. Jenner’s goal came after a save and long clearing pass from Cooper.

Girls lacrosse coaches like the expansion of the state tournament to four classifications from three, but some still lament that top teams in some classes are stuck in the same region.

With 7:56 left in the first half, the Hornets cut the margin to 5-3 on DJ Wilmott’s goal, but once again, the Eagles answered with a four-goal run and took a 9-3 lead into the break. Novato scored twice to open the second half, pulling within 9-5 on Rudy’s free-position goal with 20:51 left. They wouldn’t score again for nearly 20 minutes.

Pearre scored a free-position goal and by the time Jenner fed Marsh with 1:37 left, the Eagles’ lead had grown to 14-5.

Marsh led the Eagles with four goals while Julia Hoffman and Pearre scored three each. Jenner, who also won nine draw controls, and Emma Schettig had a goal and an assist each.

McDonogh returns home to host Roland Park in its A Conference opener Wednesday at 4 p.m.

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