No. 2 NDP wins on PKs

Blaz­ers edge No. 3 Ea­gles, will face No. 1 Spald­ing

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Glenn Gra­ham glenn.gra­ham@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Glen­nGra­hamSun

When a big play­off game goes to penalty kicks to de­ter­mine a win­ner, Notre Dame Prep All-Metro se­nior goalie Ash­ley Ga­bor likes the op­pos­ing team to take the first one.

It’s a sign of con­fi­dence and that she wants to make an im­me­di­ate dif­fer­ence.

She did just that against three-time de­fend­ing In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land A Con­fer­ence cham­pion McDonogh in Thurs­day’s semi­fi­nals.

After 80 min­utes of score­less play in reg­u­la­tion and 20 more in over­time, Ga­bor made a div­ing save on the vis­it­ing Ea­gles’ first at­tempt and the No. 2 Blaz­ers showed just as much con­fi­dence when it was their turn to take the kicks. Erica Car­pen­ter, Eva Macris and Ce­cile McGar­vey fin­ished their chances and then Macken­zie Chris­tensen sealed the vic­tory — find­ing the lower right cor­ner in the fifth and fi­nal round — for the 4-3 shootout win.

Notre Dame Prep, which lost to McDonogh in the past two ti­tle games, will re­turn to Satur­day’s cham­pi­onship against No. 1 Arch­bishop Spald­ing, a 2-0 win­ner over John Car­roll in Thurs­day’s other semi­fi­nal, at 3 p.m. at Anne Arun­del Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

The Blaz­ers go into the ti­tle game with a 9-2-2 record. No. 3 McDonogh, which has won five of the past six league cham­pi­onships, ends its sea­son at 6-3-3 and misses out on the ti­tle game for the first time since 2009. After fall­ing to McDonogh in the past two cham­pi­onship games — the first in penalty kicks and then by a 4-0 score last sea­son — Ga­bor and the Blaz­ers be­lieve it’s their time.

“The past two years, we made it to the fi­nals and got un­lucky the first time and didn’t do as well last year,” said Ga­bor, who fin­ished with four saves. “But this time, it’s our year. We have a lot of se­niors on the team, so it’s go­ing to be a big cham­pi­onship, go­ing to be re­ally good.”

The Blaz­ers came into the game with con­fi­dence, hav­ing beaten McDonogh, 1-0, late in the reg­u­lar sea­son for the first time since well be­fore their se­niors started their high school ca­reers. After tight play through the over­times net­ted few scor­ing chances for ei­ther side, the home team’s con­fi­dence grew with Ga­bor on its side and the hard work it put into tak­ing penalty kicks dur­ing train­ing ses­sions. After her clinch­ing kick, Chris­tensen was in the mid­dle of the cel­e­bra­tion that fol­lowed.

Next up is Spald­ing. The teams played to a score­less tie Sept. 22 be­fore the Cava­liers claimed a 1-0 win Oct. 13.

“Spald­ing is re­ally great this year, so it’s go­ing to be a tough game. But I think we can match up and pull out the win,” Chris­tensen said.

McDonogh coach Harry Canel­lakis was proud of his team’s ef­fort. The Ea­gles started five fresh­men and lacked their top of­fense threat, Ju­lia Dorsey, who was out with an in­jury.

“I thought we did what we could. We went for it at the end, but didn’t have enough to­day and they played well,” he said. “It’s part of the game. We’ve won five of the last six and we’re go­ing to be com­pet­i­tive in the fu­ture. But I’m not re­ally think­ing about that right now. I just think this se­nior class has given us a lot over the past four years — the three cham­pi­onships we won — so I’m just proud of them and we just came up a lit­tle short to­day.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BALTIMORE SUN

Macken­zie Chris­tensen, right, who made the de­cid­ing penalty kick, cel­e­brates with team­mates Thurs­day after Notre Dame Prep de­feated McDonogh, the three-time de­fend­ing cham­pion, in an In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land A Con­fer­ence girls soccer semi­fi­nal.

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