After the No. 1 McDonogh girls lacrosse team escaped from Roland Park Tuesday with a two-goal win in its season opener, coach Chris Robinson told the Eagles they needed to win more draws and tighten their defense. They learned quickly.
Winning draws and loose balls fueled a big possession game for the host Eagles Friday against No. 2 Notre Dame Prep. And, led by goalie Katie Ferraro's nine saves, the defense clamped down on the Blazers' second-half comeback en route to a 13-6 victory in a rematch of last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship game.
"In two days [of practice], the kids made some major improvements," Robinson said. "Roland Park was an excellent team that exposed some weaknesses that we had and our kids responded well. We really played a lot better defensively, a lot more fundamentally sound."
The Eagles, who won the past two A Conference finals over the Blazers, ran up a 3-0 lead and extended it to 8-3 by the half. They outshot the Blazers, 17-6, in the half and dominated possession thanks to winning most of the draws and 50-50 balls.
"A ground ball or a draw control can definitely change the entire momentum of a game, especially if it's followed with a finish," Eagles attacker Brooks Lawler said.
About 30 seconds into the second half, Eagles midfielder Taylor Cummings scored for the fifth time, racing to goal off a pass from Megan Whittle. After that, the defenses took over and neither team would score for nearly 10 minutes.
Although the Blazers cut down on the turnovers and the missed possessions that hindered them much of the game, they couldn't slip anything past Ferraro until Erin Seipp's free-position goal to pull within 9-4 with 14:54 to go. Ferraro saved five NDP shots to hold off its rally attempt.
At the same time, Blazers goalie Mary Sean Wilcox, who finished with 15 saves, made some big stops to hold off the Eagles (2-0 overall and conference) during that same stretch.
"They have a great offense. Everyone has a great shot. Any one of them can take it in," Wilcox said. "Second half, we really tried to pull the double team a lot more successfully, get the check off right away, pick up the drives in, trying to get the second man there, talking more and really collapsing faster on their quick shots."
The Blazers (1-1) cut the margin to five twice, but both times, the Eagles needed less than a minute to push it back to six. After Seipp's goal cut the lead to 9-4, Mallory Schonk answered 36 seconds later. Seipp, who finished with five goals, scored on another free position, but Posey Valis boosted the lead to 11-5 with 10:14 left.
The Eagles, who have won seven straight over the Blazers, controlled 16 of 21 draws and also stifled NDP's offense by face-guarding playmaker Covie Stanwick much of the time and limiting her to one goal.