Senior captain Andrew Sovero and junior Danny Sweeney combined for nine of McDonogh’s ten goals as the Eagles upset defending MIAA water polo champion Loyola, 10-9, at Blakefield on Thursday. It was McDonogh’s first win over the powerful Dons since 1999 and it allowed the Eagles to gain a split of the season series.

Sovero scored fve goals and Sweeney had four for coach Scott Ward.  

Sweeney scored twice in the opening quarter to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead, and Sovero scored three times in the second quarter to give the Eagles a 6-4 edge at intermission.  Tarik Lott had put the Eagles ahead 6-3 with 59 seconds to go in the first half, but Loyola’s J.P. Clancy scored with nine seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Dons within two.

Loyola came out strong at the start of the second half started, surging to a 7-6 lead on goals by Kevin Blum, Thomas Brennan and Taylor Bernhardt, with 1:12 to go in the third quarter.  Sweeney, however, broke the run when he scored 20 seconds later.  The third quarter ended with the teams tied 7-7.

Connor McGarvey put the Dons ahead 8-7 at 6:36 in the fourth stanza, before McDonogh stormed ahead with three consecutive goals, in three minutes, to take a 10-8 lead.

Sovero made it 8-8 at 6:00, Sweeney put the Eagles ahead 9-8 at 5:08, and Sweeney scored again at 4:07.  The Eagle two meter man’s fifth goal provided enough insurance to give the Eagles the upset win.

Brennan cut the Eagle lead to 10-9 with 1:11 to go, but McDonogh defenders and keeper Jason Brown, who had 10 saves, kept the Dons from tying the game down the stretch.

“It means so much, it’s a huge win ” said Brown. “We’ve never beaten them.  Our defense was amazing today.  Bert Schmickel made some really good plays, Garret Cusak and Andrew Sovero, and everyone played well.”

Sweeny said that the win means a lot going into the playoffs.  The Dons and the Eagles hold the second and third seeds in the playoffs, and they will meet at 12:30 p.m. on October 22 at McDonogh, the site of the conference playoffs.

Loyola coach Keith Schertle reflected on the upcoming playoff scenario.

“Calvert Hall beat us twice, so we’re going to be the 2 or 3 seed; we split with McDonogh,” said Schertle.  “We beat them by one goal at their place, and they beat us by one goal at our place; these two teams are very evenly matched.”

Schertle said that the semifinal playoff game will be difficult. “The winner of the semifinal has to come back in one hour to play for the championship.”

Sovero said that saving timeouts was a key to Thursday’s win.

“Coach Ward was able to give us some breaks in the fourth quarter, and that helps, and we really slowed it down on offense,” said the senior captain.    That strategy kept the Dons from mounting counter-attacks.

Brennan, a junior, led the Dons with three goals, and Blum had two.  Loyola keeper Colin McGrath had nine saves.

Calvert Hall will enter the playoffs as the top-seed and meet the fourth seed, also at McDonogh on the 22nd.  The fourth seed will be either Gilman or Mount St. Joseph, depending on the season’s final few games.  The semifinal winners will meet in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. in the McDonogh pool.

McDonogh 10, Loyol 8
McD    2  4   1   3   —    10
LOY    1  3   3   2   —      9
Goals: McD-Sovero 5, Sweeney 4, Lott; LOY-Brennan 3, Blum 2, James, Clancy, Bernhardt, McGarvey.
Saves: McD-Brown 10; LOY-McGrath 9.