No. 2 NDP wins on PKs
Blazers edge No. 3 Eagles, will face No. 1 Spalding
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.”
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.