The McDonogh girls soccer team celebrates its win in the IAAM… (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh…)
Most every coach in any sport at any level will tell you they encourage their players to approach each and every game the same way.
There are exceptions, however.
In girls soccer, one such case takes place Friday night when No. 1 McDonogh travels to No. 2 Archbishop Spalding in a rematch of the past two Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship games. Game time is set for 6:15 p.m.
In the area's most competitive league, the two teams have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the talented pack in the past few years. McDonogh has won the past two championships and the Cavaliers have won three titles and appeared in six title games covering the past seven years.
"I think the reality is this game has always meant a little more to our players and I'm sure that could be said for the Spalding players as well," McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis said. "It's just the success that both teams have had and the fact we went to the finals the past two years. Our contrasting styles also will make [Friday's] game interesting."
The defending-champion Eagles (7-1, 4-0 IAAM) have shown unmatched offensive firepower. They've outscored their opponents by a 39-3 margin (22-2 in four league games) with a balanced attack led by freshman Bridgette Andrzejewski and junior Casey Martinez.
They like to work the ball from the back with short passes and then can score a number of ways once in their offensive third, using the flanks to send crosses in, going through the middle with through balls or challenging defenders one on one.
The Eagles are young and an early goal can do wonders for their confidence. Evidence came last Friday when they scored in the opening minutes against a stingy Notre Dame Prep team and was able to come away with a stunningly comfortable 7-0 win.
"McDonogh has put some big scores on some good teams," Spalding coach Bob Dieterle said. "I think if you let them get into their zone of scoring, they've shown they're capable of putting in goals, so obviously we've got to work to limit their ability to do that and slow down their offensive machine."
If anybody in the area can limit the Eagles, it's most likely Spalding. The Cavaliers (5-0-3, 3-0-1) are experienced, athletic, savvy and fiercely competitve. Led by goalie Cassidy Babin and central defender Samantha Kirk, they always stay composed and organized in back. They like to quickly push the ball forward and have a quick-strike offense of their own led by Gracyn Bryant and Mo Ostrowski.
The Cavaliers come into the game with added confidence followiing Wednesday's 0-0 draw at perennial national power Good Counsel, which is ranked No. 1 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
With the IAAM divided into two didvisions this season -- Spalding is currently atop the Red Division, while McDonogh leads the Gold Division -- this is only regular-season meeting between the two. Should both teams finish first in their respective divisions, they would once again meet in the championship game barring upsets.