By Nelson Coffin
There wasn’t much news about the outcome of St. Paul’s School for Girls’ thrilling double-overtime verdict over Glenelg Country School circulating on the sideline of the other A Conference lacrosse semifinal between top-seeded McDonogh and fourth-seeded Archbishop Spalding on Wednesday afternoon.
Besides, by the way the hard-fought battle between the Cavaliers and the Eagles was being waged, both teams needed to give their full attention to the task at hand rather than focusing on how the other title contenders were faring.
The matchup fairly crackled with intensity throughout, as the players’ energy levels reached higher and higher plateaus as the contest wore on.
In the end, though, as has been the case — with one glaring exception — since the middle of the 2009 season, the Eagles prevailed.
The 10-7 verdict was the 218th time in its last 219 games that the nation’s premier girls lacrosse program emerged with a victory, although Spalding did its level best to hand McDonogh (20-0, 15-0 conference) its first loss of the season.
The Cavaliers (14-4, 11-4), who fell, 6-5, to the Eagles in a conference opener in mid-March, led briefly twice in the early going on goals by juniors Kristin O’Neill and Haley Urgo then jumped back on top on another goal by O’Neill for nearly 18 minutes in the middle of the contest.
Still, as many other rivals have discovered over the last decade, McDonogh can never be counted out, and that was the case once again on Wednesday.
Trailing, 6-4, with just over 14 minutes remaining in regulation after Spalding’s Lindsay Beardmore converted a slick pass inside from Urgo, the Eagles ignited one of their patented rallies when senior midfielder Blair Pearre dug out a tough ground ball off the draw and drove toward the goal at full speed with defenders draped all over her.
The Maryland commit then deposited the ball past Spalding senior goalie Paige Gunning, who had no chance to stop the point-blank shot.
“Blair was awesome,” McDonogh coach Taylor Cummings said. “She’s great when she’s going full speed.”
If that wasn’t enough of a momentum-builder for McDonogh, what happened next — a two-minute penalty on a Spalding defender — certainly was.
The Eagles’ extra-man offense, with Pearre scoring twice — her fifth and sixth of the game — and senior Emma Schettig netting another, took full advantage of the situation to grab an 8-6 lead with 9:28 left in the second half.
“Going man-up gave us the freedom to find opening against Spalding that we weren’t finding before,” Cummings said.
Junior Izzy Marsh’s back-hander about three minutes later made it 9-6 before she notched the Eagles’ final goal on an empty-netter.
O'Neill closed out the scoring on a short-handed free-position with under two minutes remaining.
Spalding coach Tara Restley noted that the three-man down goals were the difference in the game.
“That call was a huge momentum shift,” she said. “It was unfortunate for our kids.”