No. 1 Archbishop Spalding tops fourth-ranked Notre Dame Prep, 1-0, in IAAM A Conference soccer opener

Sturdy defense, Dean’s goal help to keep keep Cavaliers unbeaten

Published on: September 28, 2022 10:53 PM EDT

Archbishop Spalding junior defender Chloe Stroheacker (8) and senior midfielder Emma Coyne (20), right, converge on Notre Dame Prep senior midfielder Natalie O’Brocki along the sideline in Wednesday’s IAAM A Conference opener in Towson. The No. 1 Cavaliers prevailed, 1-0, over the fourth-ranked Blazers.

While it could be argued that Archbishop Spalding’s top-ranked soccer team has been about as consistently good — and more often better — than any team in the Baltimore Metro Area, coach Ashly Kennedy would like her squad to improve even more in that regard.

On Wednesday afternoon in Towson, the Cavaliers gave Kennedy what she was seeking while edging No. 4 Notre Dame Prep, 1-0, in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference opener for both teams.

”One of the things we’ve been talking to the girls about is to be consistent for 80 minutes,” she said. “And I am proud of the effort they gave today for 80 minutes.”

Having 14 seniors certainly helps to attain that goal, and it showed against a less experienced NDP squad on Wednesday.

”We have a really committed group,” Kennedy added. “We know our personnel and we’re getting the most out of each other.”

Two of Spalding’s four-year varsity players, midfielder/forward Sophie Thibeault and Emma Dean, showed their veteran wiles in the lone scoring sequence of the match.

Thibeault took the ball from a throw-in and beat several defenders along the end line before delivering a cross to Dean’s feet for a fast finish and a 1-0 advantage in the 34th minute.

”I wanted to be aggressive in our offensive third and get the ball to the far post,” Thibeault said. “I knew someone would be there because I trust our forwards.”

Each team had a chance to break through prior to Dean’s goal, with sophomore forward Riley Wills testing NDP’s Lydia Itzoe with a shot from 12 yards that the freshman keeper turned away in the 30th minute.

Well before that, Blazer rookie forward Nikki Filipidis snapped off a shot bound for the near post that Spalding junior goalie Maeve Konstantoulas stopped.

Dean and Thibeault were unrewarded after taking aim at the NDP goal in the second half before Blazer senior Natalie O’Breocki uncorked a direct kick that sailed high with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

Senior defender Mary Sommer blocked a shot by Spalding sophomore midfielder/forward Olivia Nardone five minutes later to keep NDP from pulling further ahead prior to Itzoe thwarting junior midfielder/defender Gabby Wisbeck’s drive in the 75th minute.

Spalding secured the victory with a dazzling display of keep-away as the final minutes ticked off the clock.

”We’ve been working a lot on game-management moments,” Kennedy said.

The Cavaliers also figured out a way to neutralize NDP’s top threats, Filipidis and O’Brocki.

To that end, senior center backs Meghan Bernetti and Adriane Skelton took charge.

O’Brocki in particular was a focal point of the defense.

”She’s a really good player with good feet and can break pressure, so we tried to deny her,” Kennedy said. “But when she did get possession, we tried to get more people around her.”

NDP coach Cynthia Walsh said that one slip-up can be costly. 

“The team with the fewest mistakes usually wins,” she said. “All it took was one simple breakdown on the backside.”

NO. 1 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 1, NO. 4 NOTRE DAME PREP 0

AS 1 0 — 1

NDP 0 0 — 0

Goals: AS-Emma Dean.

Assists: AS-Sophie Thibeault.

Saves: AS-Maeve Konstantoulas 4; NDP-Lydia Itzoe 6.