McDonogh coach Taylor Cummings might not have enough game balls to go around after the No. 1 Eagles rallied from a two-goal deficit at the half to beat No. 2 and two-time defending champion St. Paul’s, 13-8, for the IAAM A Conference lacrosse championship Friday night at USA Lacrosse’s Tierney Field in Sparks.
Freshman goalie Reagan O’Donovan made some terrific early saves, midfielder Kate Levy won key draws, seven Eagles scored and the defense shut out St. Paul’s for the first 13 minutes and 26 seconds of the second half.
“It’s awesome,” said Levy, who scored three goals and won five draws. “It’s something obviously we set our sights on from the first day of tryouts. We knew it was always going to be a goal of ours. This feels great. In our team, we had the belief we could do it and it’s really nice to finally pull it out.”
In winning their 12th A Conference championship, the Eagles (20-1 overall) avenged two straight playoff losses to the Gators (18-3), in last year’s semifiinal and in the 2021 title game.
They won nine straight titles between 2009, Cummings’ freshman year, and 2017. With the exception of last season, the Eagles have played in every A Conference final since 2008.
During the regular season, they edged St. Paul’s, 10-9, and the teams were that close all season. Neither had lost a game by more than a goal. McDonogh lost in overtime to Georgetown Visitation (D.C.) and St. Paul’s also lost to consensus national No. 1 Darien from Connecticut.
The Eagles rank No. 2 with St. Paul’s No. 3 in the Nike/USA Lacrosse National Girls Top 25 and the Inside Lacrosse Girls Top 25 High School Power rankings.
O’Donovan set the tone for the championship with four of her nine saves in the first seven minutes.
“I would think she’s probably MVP of this game,” Cummings said. “Just an unreal performance by her, a freshman to be in cage in that big of a moment and just step up and make so many difficult saves and then have the composure to clear it and be that anchor. So proud of her.”
O’Donovan gave credit to assistant coach Megan (Huether) Nicotra for getting her ready and excited to play.
“I had a really good warm-up. I only allowed two goals in my warm-up which is the best I’ve ever done…” O’Donovan said. “I knew coming out that this was going to be my best game, because I always play the best under really big pressure and against the best teams.”
The Eagles defense of Codi Johnson, Kit Laake, Natalie Little, McKenzie Brown and O’Donovan went into the game allowing just 6.4 goals per game against conference opponents. They stifled No. 4 Glenelg Country in a 13-4 semifinal win Tuesday.
With O’Donovan thwarting the Gators’ attack, Levy and Makena London, who also finished with three goals, gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
The Gators, who outshot McDonogh 14-8 in the first half, bounced back with four straight goals, two from Lauren Steer, who finished with three, and one each from Frannie Hahn and Natalie Shurtleff.
After Amanda Lawson cut the St. Paul’s lead to 4-3, Steer and Karina Herrera scored consecutive goals to push ahead, 6-3, their biggest lead of the game. London scored with eight-tenths of a second on the clock to give the Eagles a little momentum going into the second half.
That momentum lasted for more than 15 minutes. Lawson scored on a free position and nine seconds later, Remi Schaller went straight to goal off a pass from Levy, who won the draw. Her goal tied the game at 6 less than three minutes into the half.
Levy then scored twice before Aiyana Ripped capped the six-goal run with what would be the game-winning goal. The Eagles led 9-6 with 12:26 left in the half.
“We saw what they were doing on offense and defense,” Cummings said, “and they were able to adjust and take that second to just kind of recognize what St. Paul’s was throwing at us. Their energy in the second half was lightyears [ahead of] the first half and once they got that good momentum, they just rolled with it.”
The Gators had a chance to rally late in the game, including a two-minute extra-man stretch in which they missed five shots — one saved, one pipe and three wide.
Despite the loss, St. Paul’s coach Mary Gagnon said she could not be prouder of the seniors on her team. Many of them played major roles in winning the last two championships, the first for the Gators since 2006, and earned their first No.1 national ranking. In the three years since COVID-19 canceled their freshman season, the Gators went 50-5.
“There’s no such thing as perfect,” Gagnon said. “We had one bad half. Unfortunately, it was in the second half of the championship, because we were up by two. I thought we were playing well, but all of a sudden, we couldn’t find the back of the net. I credit McDonogh. They’re a good team and I’m sure we’re going to have a lot more battles to come, but I’m proud of this team. It was a great game.”
IAAM A CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Tierney Field, USA Lacrosse
NO. 1 MCDONOGH 13, NO. 2 ST. PAUL’S 8
St. Paul’s 6 2 — 8
McDonogh 4 9 — 13
GOALS: St. Paul’s — Lauren Steer 3, Natalie Shurtleff 2, Frannie Hahn, Karina Herrera, Maggie Porter; McDonogh — Kate Levy 3, Makena London 2, Amanda Lawson 2, Payton Magday 2, Remi Schaller 2, Aiyana Rippin, Sophia Trahan.
ASSISTS: St. Paul’s — Frannie Hahn, Natalie Shurtleff; McDonogh — Sophia Trahan, Makena London, Remi Schaller.
SAVES: St. Paul’s — Susan Radebaugh 7; McDonogh — Reagan O’Donovan 9.