The overwhelming favorite to grasp the MIAA A Conference soccer title, just three weeks ago before a stunning 1-4-1 stretch in its final six league games, McDonogh is right back on the doorstep of the conference finals following a 1-0 quarterfinal playoff win over Archbishop Curley, on Tuesday.
Kyle DeVinney scored the game’s only goal with 12 minutes to play in the opening half, with an assist from Mike Gamble, and the Eagles limited Curley’s offensive chances to close out the win.
“Barry [Stitz] did a great job of preparing his team. Curley was resilient in the back,” said McDonogh coach Steve Nichols. “We were solid defensively. Matt Shinsky sured up the back line.
“Curley did a good job of controlling Julian Griggs and Mike Gamble,” added Nichols. “I’m happy with the result. We move on to the semifinals.”
McDonogh (17-5-1) will play at Mount St. Joseph (12-3-2) on Thursday in a rematch of last year’s championship game, won by St. Joe on penalty kicks. The Gaels rallied to grab the second seed late in the season, but they must find a way to reverse of pair of 3-0 regular season losses to the Eagles. St. Joe must also overcome McDonogh’s daunting success in league semifinals. McDonogh has advanced to the league championship game in 11 of the last 12 years.
St. Joe head coach Mike St. Martin is hoping the first round bye and extra rest will bring his team back to full strength. Stars Jalen Robinson and Jordan Manley have missed a great deal of time over the second half of the season battling hamstring injuries.
Curley, which started McDonogh’s last season slump with a 1-0 win at Curley, one day after McDonogh improved to 8-0 in the conference with a win over then No. 2 Gilman, finished the year at 9-10-1.
Stitz’s young Friars played very well in the second half of the season and have gained experience which should bode well for next year.
In Tuesday’s other quarterfinal, fifth-seeded Loyola defeated fourth-seeded Calvert Hall, 4-2. The Dons will now advance to meet top-seeded Gilman in Roland Park on Thursday. The MIAA A Conference championship game will take place on Sunday, at 4:30 p.m., at Archbishop Spalding.