Notre Dame Prep is back in the Association of Independent Schools A Division championship game -- thanks to its defense.
Defending champion and No. 1 NDP held off a determined No. 2 Roland Park for an 11-4 victory in a rematch of last year's title game.
Last May, the Pirates (12-1) edged Roland Park, 11-10, for the title, and this one was almost as close.
The host Reds (12-4) stayed within three goals until the final 10 minutes when NDP scored three in two minutes to take a 10-4 lead.
Much of the game, however, the NDP attack struggled to connect, leaving the defense to do the work.
"I don't know if we were nervous or what, but we weren't playing our game," said Lacey Aumiller, who led NDP with five goals. "Our game is pass and we were running the ball. It took us a while to settle down."
Big defensive plays by Amy Baird, Kate Kaiser, Kelly Boyle and Lacy Pica, along with 10 saves from Mary Beth Laverghetta kept NDP in the game until the attack finally started to roll. The Reds were shut out in the second half.
"They were above and beyond the call of duty," said NDP coach Mary Bartel. "When we needed the ball, they came up with it. Mary Beth was stellar and they seemed undaunted."
The victory gives the Pirates a chance to avenge their only loss -- to No. 4 St. Mary's in a wild 14-13 game. The two meet for the title at 2 p.m. tomorrow at McDonogh.
Yesterday, the Reds had hoped to avenge a 15-5 regular-season loss to the Pirates. They struck in the first two minutes on Natalie Rothemund's free position, but NDP answered with four straight.
The Reds then turned up their defense with strong efforts from Megan Kelly, Kristin Raneri, Allison Michels, Reagan Raneri, Rothemund and goalie Emily Lough (eight saves). They crept back in the game with three of the next four goals. Betsy Gaines bounced in a free-position shot to pull within 5-4 with 3: 59 left in the first half.
But the Pirates needed only 37 seconds to answer by doing what they do best -- controlling the midfield and striking with quick passes. Lauren Aumiller's draw control led to a Sheehan Stanwick goal on a Lacey Aumiller assist.
"We tried to slow down their passing," said Kelly. "In the beginning of the second half, it worked like a charm, but then they started playing their game."
Laverghetta's save on Kristin Raneri's free position sparked a transition goal from Lacey Aumiller with 11: 32 to go. Over the next four minutes, the Pirates' transition was unstoppable, resulting in goals by Wick Stanwick, Kate Chasney and Lacey Aumiller.
AIS B semifinals
Park 15, Catholic 9: Rebecca Shapiro and Erin Burns each scored four to power host Park (11-4) past Catholic.
Mercy 10, Archbishop Spalding 0: Shannon Cohen had two goals and an assist and Kate Plantholt made 12 saves as Mercy (12-2-1) shut out Spalding.
L Mercy faces Park for the title at noon tomorrow at McDonogh.
Pub Date: 5/09/97