For the twelth time in the last thirteen years, and for the fifth season in a row, the McDonogh soccer team will play in the MIAA A Conference championship game this Sunday.

The Eagles (18-5-1) will face the top-seeded Gilman Greyhounds (15-2-3) for the championship at Archbishop Spalding, at 4:30 p.m.  Both squads advanced with 2-0 victories, with McDonogh eliminating defending champion Mount St. Joseph (12-4-2), in Irvington and the Greyhounds defeating visiting Loyola (9-8-0), 2-0, in Roland Park.

McDonogh coach Steve Nichols had high praise for the Gaels.

“Saint Joe is a very good team.  Jalen (Robinson), an under-18 National player, only played about five minutes for them, (hamstring) and even without him, they were still very good,” said Nichols.  “Mike (St.Martin) has a very good team, and he always does a great job.”

It was the second shut-out in a row for Nichols’ team in the playoffs.  Sophomore  keeper Matt Sanchez blanked Curley on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, 1-0, on a goal by Kyle DeVinney.  Sanchez had six saves for the Eagles on Thursday.  

Nichols said that his team regrouped after a 1-4-1 slump toward the end of the regular season after getting off to a fast start.  He credited the play of Matt Shinsky and Macolm Harris in the back, Julian Griggs and Mike Gamble up front, and solid work from DeVinney and Ryan Kennedy all around.

Harris put the Eagles ahead at the 27 minute mark in the first half against the Gaels, and it stayed that way until Gamble blasted a penalty kick home with 1:46 to go in regulation to seal the win.  The Gaels pressured the goal throughout the game, especially late in the second half, but they couldn’t find the net.

“The goal was basically a lucky free kick,” said Harris. “I hit it off the wall to see if I could get a guy to hit it in.”

Gamble said that the Mount came out flying, and that they played lots of intensity.  

“We had to match that intensity,” said Gamble.  “They’re a great team, and they played a great game.”

Griggs said that the team has worked hard.  

“We had a little rough patch in our season, but to come back and win the quarterfinal and the semifinal, especially today, we realy worked hard.”

Shinsky called it a group effort.  “We’ve come together as a team, like a family.”

St. Joe’s St.Martin said he was proud of his team.

“I thought we had a great season. I thought we battled hard and we had plenty of opportunities in the final third, we just couldn’t put the foot on the ball and get that good strike,” said St. Martin.  “I’m happy with the way the season went; they played hard all the way to the end.”

In its victory, Gilman received a first-half goal from Joey Cahalan and Riley DeSmit added second half insurance.

In the end, McDonogh/Gilman, a pair of long time rivals, is the match-up everyone expected a few weeks ago when the two teams were both undefeated.  They split a pair well played regular season games and fans should be in for a tense, well played final.

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No. 3 McDonogh 2, No. 5 Mount St. Joseph 0
Mount St. Joseph
McD-Harris, Gamble.
McD-Sanchez 7; MSJ-Ramsland 7.