By Nelson Coffin
Calling Archbishop Spalding’s defense stingy is a gross understatement.
The defending A Conference champions had only allowed one goal all season coming into Tuesday’s soccer showdown in Severn against McDonogh, and that’s still the case after they pitched their seventh shutout of the season in a 2-0 triumph over the Eagles.
And they are still unsecured upon in conference play this fall.
Junior goalie Jillian Savageau and her backline mates are that good.
“When you play a team a second time, you want to figure out some kinks,” Spalding coach Ashly Kennedy said. “We trained this week and prepared for their tendencies. We worked on clearing out of the back and on our shape, and collectively they all stepped up at big moments. It was a testament to our backline being able to step up, and for Jillian again coming up a couple of times huge.”
Meanwhile, it was an unheralded player, Olivia Burkowsk, who scored the game’s first goal after not playing at all in the first meeting between the two teams, a scoreless double-overtime deadlock.
Sophomore Lauren Korsnick ignited the Cavs’ scoring play after taking a pass down the right side and motoring around a defender to crisply cross the ball in front of the goal.
That’s when Spalding (7-0-1, 4-0-1 conference) and Burkowski cashed in, big time.
“I was give an opportunity to either cut in or go around the defender,” Korsnick said. “I faked and went around the defender and played the ball in.”
The ball caromed off another McDonogh defender toward Burkowski, who stung the net with a wicked one-timer in the 31st minute for a 1-0 advantage.
“It was just kind of like a garbage goal, but I’ll count it,” Burkowski, noting it was only her second goal of the season. “It was amazing to score against McDonogh. It’s crazy to score against such a great team. I didn’t play in the other McDonogh game, so I was like ‘whatever,’ it’s fine. So I really wasn’t expecting a goal out of this game. Coach told me yesterday that I was going to start in this game and I, like, freaked out. So I was very excited to play and that (goal) just topped it all off.”
The score remained that way until just over seven minutes remained in regulation when junior Fifi Iluyomade was taken down in the box by McDonogh junior goalie Abby VanMetre, who drew a yellow card on the play.
On the ensuing penalty kick by Spalding’s Jess Zimmerman, McDonogh sophomore keeper Maddie Puritz had no chance to stop the junior’s shot that was rocketed into the left corner of the net to double the margin.
For the second straight match, the inability by the Eagles (6-1, 3-1-1) to solve Savageau (5 saves) and juniors Elisa Piccirilli and Ella Born and sophomore Hannah Williams rotating on the left side and junior Abby Jeanneault and freshman Jess Wallace doing the same at center back.
Senior Kaitlyn Keaton handled the right side by herself.
It added up to yet another scoreless outing by Spalding, which still was tested sternly by McDonogh’s potent offense.
Savageau, just as she did in the earlier match, made a brilliant save against McDonogh freshman midfielder Kemper Robinson.
This time it was from point-blank range in the 34th minute.
Just 30 seconds later, the Cavalier keeper smothered junior Julia Dorsey’s cross before sophomore forward/midfielder Lily McCarthy could make solid contact with the ball.
Near the end of the half, Born cleared a ball played into the box by freshman forward Aria Bilal out of harm’s way before an Eagle teammate could reach it.
Those near misses, including a header that sailed well over the crossbar by senior Maddie Jenner and a McCarthy miss on a feed from Bilal, only mounted the Eagles’ frustrations.
“It was similar to the last game,” McDonogh coach Harry Canellakis said. “We created enough chances and opportunities, but what we need is a little more tenacity.”