Top-ranked McDonogh and No. 2 NDP set for a showdown in the IAAM A Conference title game (VIDEO HERE!!)

Blaire Pearre had a hat trick in McDonogh’s semifinal victory over St. Paul’s School Wednesday. The top-ranked Eagles will try for a 10th straight IAAM A title, Friday night against second-ranked Notre Dame Prep at Tierney Field in Sparks.

by Nelson Coffin

When No. 1 McDonogh and second-ranked Notre Dame Prep met April 30, the Eagles had to scratch and claw their way to an 11-10 overtime victory over the Blazers.

It took senior attacker Julia Hoffman’s goal in the extra session to finally subdue stubborn NDP in the closest call McDonogh has had since beating Century in OT two years ago.

And as anyone with even a shred of knowledge about girls high school lacrosse knows, that’s hardly a normal pattern for McDonogh, which has won its other 20 contests by a robust 9.5 goals-per-game average this spring.

That’s what makes the IAAM A Conference championship showdown between the Eagles (21-0) and the Blazers (16-4) so intriguing.

The rivals advanced to the title tilt, slated for 7:00 p.m. at the US Lacrosse’s Tierney Field in Sparks on Friday, after winning semifinal games over St. Paul’s School for Girls and Glenelg Country School, respectively, on Wednesday afternoon.

The Blazers turned away the No. 6 Dragons, 7-5, while avenging a 10-9 loss to them in the conference opener in mid-March.

The Eagles also had a stiff test against the eighth-ranked Gators, prevailing, 13-8, to run their national-record winning streak to 198 games.

Still, McDonogh struggled in the early going to pull away, primarily because St. Paul’s senior goalie Clare Boone made five of her game-high seven saves during that span.

McDonogh junior midfielder Blair Pearre said that the Eagles weren’t playing as a team while they had difficulty solving Boone.

“We were playing a little more selfishly than we normally do,” she said.

The nine-time defending A Conference champs started well when senior center Maddie Jenner converted a feed from senior attacker Rachel Anderson for the game’s first goal and Hoffman placed a shot that bounced off a pipe and caromed off Boone into the net for a 2-0 advantage.

The Gators (10-6) bounced back, however, on a pair of goals by freshman midfielder Christina Gagnon to tie the score with just under eight minutes left in the first half.

Sophomore Emma Tilson put McDonogh back on top before Pearre and Hoffman completed a 3-0 run that was interrupted by St. Paul’s freshman attacker Maddie Scheffs’ crease roll for a score.

Hoffman netted her third goal of the half with 27 seconds remaining in the period for a 6-3 advantage.

Jenner and yet another Gator freshman, Esprit Cha, traded goals to open the second half, followed by Hoffman’s fourth goal and Gagnon’s third to keep the three-goal margin, at 8-5, intact.

It was at that pivotal point when Pearre notched back-to-back goals to establish a 10-5 cushion and a fourth yellow card assessed to St. Paul’s with over 12 minutes remaining gave the Eagles an extra-man advantage for most of the remainder of the game.

Five minutes later, McDonogh freshman Kemper Robinson took advantage of the situation to make it 11-5.

Undaunted, sophomore midfielder Alex Pirisino scored three shorthanded goals in the latter stages for the Gators while Anderson and Jenner countered for the Eagles.

“We’re gritty and young,” St. Paul’s coach Mary Gagnon said. “We believe in ourselves, and we were right there. But we gave them too many chances, and if you do that, they make you pay.”

McDonogh coach Nancy Love said that the physical nature of the game did not deter the Eagles.

“The game got a little rough,” she said. “We could’ve been distracted, but we stayed with our game plan.”

SPSG 3 5 — 8
MCD 6 7 — 13
Goals: SPSG-Christina Gagnon 3, Alex Pirisino 3, Maddie Scheffs, Esprit Cha; MCD-Julia Hoffman 4, Maddie Jenner 3, Blaire Pearre 3, Emma Tilson, Kemper Robinson, Rachel Anderson.
Assists: SPSG-Shelton Sawers. MCD-Julia Hoffman 2, Rachel Anderson, Lila Huddles, Izzy Marsh.
Saves: SP-Claire Boone 7, Sophia Foohey 2; MCD-Julia Cooper 4.