By Nelson Coffin
Mercy’s upstart soccer team has been making inroads the last couple of seasons against top A Conference rivals.
In 2017, the Magic delivered one of the biggest wins in the program’s history by knocking off Archbishop Spalding in a conference semifinal before falling in the final minutes to McDonogh, 1-0, in the championship match.
On Thursday in Owings Mills, Mercy had another groundbreaking moment with a historic 1-0 triumph over McDonogh on the Eagles’ home pitch.
It was the first home loss for McDonogh, the nation’s top-ranked team according to Top Drawer Soccer and USA Today, since falling to California’s Maria Carillo High School in September of 2013,.
The loss also snapped an overall 18-match winning streak against conference opponents.
The lone goal was volleyed into the net by freshman midfielder Payton Schenning on a 50-yard free kick by senior Claire Geier late in the first half.
“It was a world-class goal,” Mercy coach Doug Pryor said. “I mean, what she did is really, really hard to do. She slipped in between two defenders and hit it solidly.”
The goal came moments after Schenning rocketed a shot off the cross bar.
She was injured shortly after the goal and only played sparingly in the second half as the Magic (7-1, 2-1 A Conference) hung on to preserve the victory.
“She was the best player on the field in the first half, and we played well while she was in there,” Pryor said. “We struggled a little bit in the second half without her. She came back in with about five minutes to go and played for about two minutes.”
Pryor said that playing on McDonogh’s slightly shorter field proved to be an advantage.
He also said that the Magic caught a break when McDonogh standout junior Baylee DeSmit’s drive in the opening minute drifted wide.
“If she had scored that, it could have been like ‘here we go again,’ “ he said. “We would have probably lost, 5-0. We caught some breaks, but that’s just soccer. Sometimes you’re going to have a game like that, and it’s a credit to McDonogh to to be as good as they have been when they always get the other team’s best game.”
Pryor said that his message is finally getting through to his players.
“I’ve told them for eight years that we could win some of these games, and now they’re beginning to believe me,” he added. “It’s just great for our kids, our conference and our school.”