NDP hockey remains perfect after beating top-ranked McDonogh
by Nelson Coffin
Notre Dame Prep’s mission to avenge last year’s loss to McDonogh in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship match in November took a huge step forward on Wednesday afternoon when the third-ranked Blazers prevailed over the No. 1 Eagles, 3-1.
“We talk about it,” NDP coach Katrina Ross said after her team improved to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in league play. “I still have PTSD from it. It was a hard way to lose, but we did what we needed to do today.”
And what the Blazers did was to spot McDonogh a 1-0 lead on a goal by sophomore forward Blake Cunneen and then roar back with three goals of their own to move to the top of the A Conference standings.
A long hit by junior midfielder/defender Rachel Borzymowski that was redirected by senior forward/midfielder Sam Nason past enemy goalie Liv Geoghan (6 saves) for the tying goal, with just under nine minutes remaining in the first half, spurred NDP toward even better things in the second half.
That’s when the Blazers did their best work, scoring four minutes into the final period on a goal by sophomore forward/midfielder Meredith Medvetz and then pressuring the fatigued McDonogh backline for more.
NDP earned several of its 12 penalty corners during the onslaught and then finally added another goal by junior midfielder Nathalie Friedman with 12 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in regulation.
“We had so much momentum behind us,” Borzymowski said. “And we had so much motivation to come out really, really strong.”
McDonogh (4-1, 2-1), which is still mourning the loss of Katelyn Whittle — who scored the winning goal in the 2016 title game — after the star forward shattered her jaw in a 2-0 victory over No. 17 Hereford last week, had no answers until the late going.
In fact, the Eagles had a difficult time getting the ball into their offensive end for the first 14 minutes of the second half.
However, they eventually created several dangerous situations inside the circle and even produced a couple more of them in front of Blazer goalie Sasha Dennis, who was up to the task by denying McDonogh forward Ally Pitts from point-blank range as one of her four saves.
Part of the reason the home team had problems was because of fatigue induced by defending so many penalty corners on a sunny day with temperatures in the low 80s.
“Especially to keep on flying like that,” Borzymowski said, using the hockey term for those who have to race from the midfield line to get back into a defensive posture on corners. “That’s really exhausting. And I think we may have been starting to get into their heads a little bit.”
McDonogh coach Denise Wolf said that replacing Whittle will not be easy.
“We worked all week on who was going to play the pad position,” she said. “But our girls are still a little gun-shy, which is understandable after seeing (Whittle’s injury).”
Besides, even with Whittle the Eagles would most likely have been hard-pressed to stay with the red-hot Blazers, who have now outscored opponents by a combined, 41-3, this season.
“They ran circles around us,” Wolf praised. “They are really strong, especially in the midfield, and their stick skills are great.”
Still, with seven conference games remaining, NDP’s goal of claiming its program’s first IAAM crown has many more hurdles ahead.
“We feel really great, but we’re not going to let it get to our heads,” Borzymowski said. “We’re going to keep coming out really strong every time.”