March 14, 2013

No. 1 McDonogh Pulls Away in Second Half Against No. 11 Vero Beach

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com

Sammi Burgess finished with a game-high four goals in assist as No. 1 McDonogh (Md.) downed No. 11 Vero Beach (Fla.) 12-6 after being tied 5-5 at halftime.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The top-ranked McDonogh (Md.) girls' lacrosse team received a scare from No. 11 Vero Beach (Fla.), but the Eagles shook off some first-game jitters and showed why they have finished as the nation's best three years in a row.

Vero Beach took a 3-0 lead in the first five minutes and battled to a 5-5 tie going into halftime before McDonogh took off in the second half for a 12-6 win Wednesday at Vero Beach's Citrus Bowl.

The game marked McDonogh's 70th straight win and was the Fighting Indians' first loss of the season, eight games in. It was a matchup of the national No. 1 and top girls' team in the South, according to the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll.

"It was amazing," said McDonogh senior Sammi Burgess, who finished with a game-high four goals and one assist. "It was a 0-0 game at halftime and we knew we had to work together and stop forcing things on offense and move it around and get the open player.

"We have a lot of young players, and I think we were just antsy to play our first game, and I think we were forcing things. Vero played out of their minds. I don't think we were expecting that, but I think we reacted really well in the second half."

The Eagles (1-0) had won the first meeting in the series last year 15-5, never trailing. This time, they didn't get a lead until the second half, a credit to Vero Beach's stingy defense.

Draw controls proved to be the difference-maker in the end, as Vero Beach (7-1) finished with just six for the game — all of them in the first half. Sophomore Olivia Jenner was handling those duties for McDonogh, while the Indians rotated in Meredith Baker, Ashley McIntyre and Abby Shields.

When Vero Beach wasn't winning draw controls, the Eagles were able to dominate possession and take time setting up their offense. Megan Whittle contributed three goals and an assist and four other players besides her and Burgess scored.

"I'm just really proud of the team, coming in here with such a new group of kids and so many young players and they hung tough with a team that's played a lot of games and a highly ranked team and a really good opponent," said McDonogh coach Chris Robinson, who played three freshmen and four sophomores on a team that graduated five starters.

"The game was back and forth for a while until we settled our first-game nerves. We were throwing the ball away, rushing our offense but I think it settled down in the second half and we really played at our tempo and we took off. We dominated the second half by draw controls and playing really patient offense."

The Indians came out of the gate on fire, scoring 22 seconds in on a goal by Zan Biedenharn. Junior Katy Pridemore, a Florida commit, and Shields tacked on goals within the next four minutes before senior defender Brianna Blum was sent off with a yellow card to put Vero Beach down a player.

Six seconds after Blum's exit, McDonogh got on the board and scored two more goals in the next minute. Shortly after the Eagles tied it, a second Vero Beach player was sent off, but goalie Allison McDonough came up with several big saves to keep the Indians in the game. Pridemore led Vero Beach with two goals and an assist, and McDonough finished with 10 saves.

"That was an outstanding first half," Vero Beach coach Shannon Dean said. "We came out and did exactly what we had planned to do and that was to jump on them quick and continue on with our game plan. We did that for the first half but as the second half wore on, once they got a couple goals, it was tough. They just found their groove. They adjusted well and just outhustled us for ground balls and draw controls."


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