The Eagles complete a season sweep of a team that had not lost a match in 10 years
by Nelson Coffin
McDonogh coaches Omar Sobhy and Tyler Ebeling have many reasons to be proud of what the Eagles accomplished as a team during the 2017-18 campaign.
First and foremost was finally knocking off the Goliath of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, aka Gilman, a team that had never lost a match during a dominating 10-year reign.
In mid-December, McDonogh managed to eke out a 4-3 victory over the Greyhounds.
When the archrivals met again at the end of January, the Eagles claimed a 5-2 win.
On Monday afternoon in the MIAA team championship final at the Meadow Mill Athletic Club, McDonogh made it a clean sweep by taking a 6-1 decision to earn the program’s first title to finish 15-0 in conference play.
Moreover, the Eagles were ranked sixth nationally in Division I.
“We’re fortunate that we didn’t lose any superstars from last year’s team,” Sobhy said. “That first dual meet was very scary. We didn’t have enough confidence, and it came down to a battle of No. 1’s (Gilman’s Charlie East and Alastair Cho of McDonogh). We were tied, 3-3, and then Alastair put it in an extra gear (to prevail 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 11-3).”
Cho was even better against East on Monday by taking an 11-7, 11-8, 11-9 triumph, although the team championship had already been decided by the time the juniors and longtime friends took the court.
“He’s great at hitting winners,” Cho said. “I just try to slow him down and wear him out.”
Even though McDonogh was a favorite coming into the season, Sobhy told his troops not to rely on the expectations of others.
After that cliffhanger against Gilman, Sobhy said he told his team that it needed to start settling into matches.
“They needed to be patient and consistent,” he said. “I told them to bring everything they have — and everybody stepped up in their own way.”
Other winners for the victorious Eagles were Cullen Little over Gilman’s Will DeWire at No. 2, Rohan Korn over Winston Park at No. 4, Jeremy Waldman over Grant Emry at No. 5 and Emily Schuster over Clark Dowling at No. 6.
Ned Gildea beat Ben Korn at No. 3 for Gilman’s lone win.
“They were the frontrunners before the season and they kept getting better,” said Gilman coach Doug DeSmit, whose Greyhounds finished 12-3 in the MIAA and 14th nationally in Division I. “I appreciate how much our players invested in the team. But I also appreciate and applaud McDonogh for what they did. Kudos to them. We look forward to renewing our rivalry with them again next year.”
McDonogh co-captain Alex Pitts said that even though the Eagles knew they had a strong team, they still had to overcome years of Gilman’s history of success in the sport.
“It really wasn’t much of a rivalry before, because we had never beaten them,” he said. “We just had to continue to work hard in order to improve — and it paid off. But we knew they weren’t going to give it to us, and that it wasn’t going to be easy.”
MIAA TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
(AT MEADOW MILL ATHLETIC CLUB
MCDONOGH 6, GILMAN 1
No. 1 Alastair Cho (McD) def. Charlie East 11-7, 11-8, 11-9
No. 2 Cullen Little (McD) def. Will DeWire (9-11), 11-3, 11-8, 11-3
No. 3 N. Ned Gildea (GIL) def. Ben Korn 14-12, 11-8, 11-9
No. 4 Rohan Korn (McD) def. Winston Park (13-15), 11-8, 11-7, 11-5
No. 5 Jeremy Waldman (McD) def. Grant Emry 11-1, 11-4, 11-7
N0. 6 Darden Gildea (MCD) def. Andrew Fried 11-7, 11-7, 11-9
No. 7 Emily Schuster (MCD) def. Clark Dowling (14-16) (5-11), 11-4, 11-8. 11-7