Corner kicks served in by junior midfielder Lilly McCarthy have been a valuable asset for the No. 1 McDonogh girls soccer team this past week.
In the closing minutes of a tie game against visiting Notre Dame Prep on Monday, McCarthy was able to bend home the game winner as the Eagles pulled out a 2-1 win over the No. 7 Blazers in a key Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game.
With the win, defending champion McDonogh (12-0-2) closes its conference schedule with a 7-0-1 record, tied with No. 2 Archbishop Spalding (12-0-2, 7-0-1) for first place. A coin toss will determine which team claims first place and the top seed in the playoffs.
On Wednesday against Spalding, McCarthy sent a corner kick to the far post that senior Julia Dorsey headed home with eight minutes left to give the Eagles a 2-2 tie. On Monday, she did all the work on her own with 6:41 left, getting a ball past Notre Dame Prep goalie Alyssa Minnick that finished just inside the far post for the win.
“I try to work on them so they’re bending in and I’ve scored a couple like that,” said McCarthy, who has 15 goals this season. “It’s kind of what you practice and it wasn’t supposed to be completely like that, but I’m glad it happened that way and I’ll take it.”
The visiting Blazers (8-2, 5-2) came out more assertive and were rewarded on their own corner kick late in the first half. Sophomore Christine Scott played a short ball on the right side to freshman Finley Barger, who one-timed a shot that beat McDonogh goalie Maddie Lowney to the far side for a 1-0 advantage with 5:14 left until the break.
McDonogh answered less than two minutes later when freshman Kelsey Smith headed home a high ball sent in by Kalli Wethern from the left side.
With the wind on their side in the second half, the Eagles pressed much of the final 40 minutes and were finally able to get a second shot past Minnick (six saves) on the Eagles’ fifth corner kick of the game.
McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis is hoping to make adjustments to avoid the slow starts, but has been pleased with the team’s work in finding ways to overcome them.
“We’re having a little trouble asserting ourselves early in games, but, at the same time, it’s been great reaction after going down in the Spalding game and this game,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to sort that out before the playoffs, but I’m proud of the fight. NDP is a very good team, athletic and very direct. I thought it was a good performance by us.”
If the past week is an indication, the IAAM A Conference playoffs, set to begin Friday when St. Mary’s takes on Glenelg Country for the eighth and final seed, will be tightly contested in the end.
McDonogh and Spalding went back and forth in the last week’s tie; Notre Dame Prep took an early 1-0 lead before the Eagles rallied Monday, and last year’s runner-up Mercy is always dangerous.
NDP coach Val Teixeira believes his team’s performance against the Eagles on Monday can provide a playoff boost. The Blazers, locked into third place, close out the regular-season schedule against St. Paul’s on Wednesday.
“We matched up with them play for play, we competed, we were aggressive, we were disciplined and didn’t back down from any play,” he said.
Lowney, who is filling in for injured starter Abby Van Metre, made two saves for the Eagles. Van Metre will be back in the starting lineup for the playoffs.
Goals: NDP – F. Barger; M – Smith, McCarthy
Assists: NDP – Scott; M -- Wethern
Saves: NDP – Minnick 6; M – Lowney 2Half: 1-1