It took 65 minutes of physical play against a fast and aggressive McDonogh team, a comeback from an early one-goal deficit, an outstanding team-wide defensive effort and a perfectly placed penalty stroke in overtime, but in the end, the Archbishop Spalding field hockey team got it done.
For the first time, the Cavaliers are IAAM A Conference champions.
Sophomore Erin Shanahan’s goal in the first half brought her Cavaliers level with the Eagles, 1-1, and her OT stroke clinched a 2-1 win for Spalding in the championship match at Goucher College on November 3.
It is Spalding's first championship in five tries, a long-awaited title for a program that for years has been one of the strongest in the state, though without finishing on top. Head Coach Leslee Brady said the leadership of the seniors and the talented youngsters in the program combined to make this year’s team the champion.
“I think from the very first practice, we knew we had talent,” said Brady. “They’re young and very talented. But that talent has to be given permission and empowered, and that’s [seniors Maggie Kaulius, Patrice Groody, Anna Kennedy, Katie Kreis and Julie Eaker]. I’ve got five of the best seniors, and they have to allow those underclassmen that power. Every person on this team recognizes each individual talent and allows them to utilize that talent. It would be very easy for my seniors and my upperclassmen to squash that. They’ve given [the underclassmen] the power to play hockey, and this team has bonded from day one.”
Shanahan, who was celebrating her 16th birthday, took the title-clinching stroke after McDonogh goalkeeper Hannah Gizzi charged out to stop Kaulius on a breakaway. Her sliding save attempt ended with her sitting on top of the ball, making it unplayable and awarding Spalding a stroke.
Shanahan sealed the deal with her 31st goal of the season.
“I’m used to having the pressure on, but I had to calm myself down before I took the stroke and make it count,” said Shanahan, who like her teammates believed from the start that this year’s team was going to be the one to get the program over the hump. “I can’t even describe it. I was saying before tryouts for this season, ‘This is the year we’re going to win the championship,’ so for that to happen, it’s just a great feeling.”
The Cavaliers (21-1) had twice beaten McDonogh this season, 4-3 and 1-0, and the Eagles’ thirst for revenge put Spalding in a 1-0 hole in the first half when Brindi Griffin scored on a penalty stroke.
It took only two minutes for Spalding to respond. The Cavaliers equalized when Kennedy sent an insert to Shanahan on the left side. The sophomore took a touch past a charging defender before rifling her shot past Griffin from 15 yards.
Kaulius said her team has proven time and again its ability to respond to adversity, and she was not surprised to see her side even the game right away.
“I was not worried at all,” said Kaulius. “I don’t think anyone was, honestly. It was just like, ‘Okay, it’s one goal, let’s get back out there again.’”
The defensive playmaking of Alexis Phillips, Erin Morsheimer, Kayla Brisolari and goalkeeper Megan Nemecek allowed Spalding to withstand and steadily wear down McDonogh’s attack over the remainder of the game, turning the momentum in favor of the Cavaliers. The Eagles had more shots and inserts to start each half, but in each case Archbishop Spalding responded swiftly; the Cavs outshot the Eagles 21-12.
“The girls were really hyped, and it took a little while to settle down,” said Brady, “but once they settled down—I knew if we kept doing that, we’ve scored 80 goals this season, I knew if we just kept pounding the goal we’d get one in.”
Nemecek made a string of clutch saves as McDonogh pushed hard for a winning goal in the closing minutes of regulation and overtime, including a reaction glove save on a McDonogh insert and a sliding kick save on an Eagles’ breakaway. The freshman goalkeeper finished with seven saves.
“Any championship game is hard, but I feel like I’ve been in these situations before, so it wasn’t that difficult for me,” said Nemecek. “We just came in with so much heart.”
In seven-on-seven overtime, the advantage seemed to belong to the speedy Cavaliers, who nearly ended the game twice on breakaways by Kaulius and Logan Edmondson before Kaulius earned the penalty stroke for Shanahan.
Brady described the win as the culmination of a process many players have contributed to over the years.
“We wanted this,” Brady said. “We’ve been in the championship game four times without coming up with a win. This is for all those girls. I’ve got alumni and parents here, and I’m so excited for all those girls that previously were here. Great seniors, great leadership, just a great game. We’re just really happy. I can’t tell you how excited we are.”
The members of the 2013 IAAM A Conference champion Archbishop Spalding Cavaliers field hockey team are Kayla Brisolari, Logan Edmondson, Patrice Groody, Erin Morsheimer, Anna Kennedy, Alexis Phillips, Kyler Greenwalt, Katie Kreis, Emily Cooper, Amy Wright, Abbey Sherwood, Kat Turner, Julie eaker, Maggie Kaulius, Caryn Reed, Blaine Donnelly, Erin Shanahan, Megan Nemecek and Alison Mervine. They are coached by Leslee Brady.