Most young teams at the high school athletic level often are given leeway in terms of expecations.

That’s not the case with McDonogh School girls soccer.

The bar is always astronomically high, no matter the circumstances. Wednesday evening, McDonogh secured yet another berth in the IAAM A Conference championship game.

The fourth-ranked Eagles scored a pair of first half goals and a suffocating defensive effort held third-ranked John Carroll to just five shots in a 2-0 semifinal victory in Owings Mills.

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The fourth-time defending champion Eagles will play No. 2 Mercy, Saturday at 7 p.m. at Calvert Hall for the A Conference championship. The Magic gained their first A title game berth with a 4-1 victory over sixth-ranked Notre Dame Prep in Wednesday’s other semifinal contest.

It will be the fifth straight appearance in the IAAM A final for McDonogh – a huge accomplishment considering the team has no seniors and had a rocky start to the season with a loss and a tie.

“Young team but honestly, youth doesn’t matter,” McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis said. “Quality is what is really important and we have a lot of quality.”

McDonogh’s speedy junior Katy Levy put the Eagles in position to score first at the 23-minute mark of the opening half. Levy swiped the ball from a Patriots player near the midfield stripe and raced into the offensive zone.

Levy sent a pass to junior teammate Elle Long and the Eagles earned a penalty kick when Long was tackled in the box. Long faked low and beat the goaltender high with a shot just under the crossbar to give the Eagles a 1-0 advantage.

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“It’s pretty special that with the youngest team in the IAAM that we were able to get back to the championship,” Long said after the game. “We have put a lot of work in to get to this point.”

McDonogh wasted little time adding a second goal. As the clock went under 19:30 left in the first half, freshman midfielder Maddie Rose corralled a pass out of the defensive zone and split a pair of defenders to get an open shot.

Rose put her shot just past the diving goaltender and inside the post to make it 2-0.

“We are preached to just play simple,” Levy said about how her team is so successful in the big moments. “Just play simple and pretty soccer. When you do that and you don’t try to overcomplicate things, it makes things really easy. [Everyone] is moving off the ball into the right spaces.”

That score stayed 2-0 for the remainder of the half thanks to some brilliant goaltender from John Carroll goalkeeper Kelly McGrain. The freshman had four saves in the first half as the Eagles continued to pressure.

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John Carroll struggled to find any momentum in the first half.

Patriots coach Haley Howe thought her team played tight in its biggest game of the season.

“We played against a team that is very used to these big games,” said Howe whose team rose to No. 1 during the regular season. “I think that was kind of our Achilles’ Heel tonight is dealing with pressure as a privilege and we deserve to be here. There is no need to play out of our game. The talent is there and the leadership is there [going forward].”

After halftime, the Patriots rallied to briefly put a little pressure on the Eagles but could not convert on a pair of chances at the 20-minute mark of the second half.

McDonogh snatched back momentum shortly after when Levy drove deep in the Patriots zone and sent a shot that was deflected out by McGrain to set up a corner for the Eagles.

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Junior Lexi Terry lofted the corner kick into the box, where fellow junior Gracie Salais sent it home on a header to make it 3-0 with 17:30 left in the game. McDonogh added its fourth and final tally with eight minutes remaining when Levy faked out a defender and converted a shot from just outside the goal box.

After starting league play with a tie (vs. John Carroll) and a loss (2-0 to Mercy), McDonogh has won four straight.

“It would be really cool to win it again,” Long said. “Looking for a five-peat this year. It would be special to win it, [especially] with no seniors.”



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McDonogh 2 2 – 4

John Carroll 0 0 – 0

Goals: McDonogh - Elle Long, Maddie Rose, Gracie Salais, Kate Levy.

Assists: McDonogh – Emma Patti, Lexi Terry.

Saves: John Carroll - Anna Garvey 6, Emily Nelson 3; McDonogh - Remi Schaller 3.