Ray Lewis Inspires St. Paul's, But McDonogh Pulls Out WinPosted on May 14, 2013
By Keith Mills
When the St. Paul's girls' lacrosse team arrived at school early on May 13, they were greeted by a cell phone video of Ray Lewis delivering one of his patented pregame pep talks.
Lewis' daughter, Diamond, is a student at St. Paul's, and the former Ravens linebacker wanted to set the tone for what would take place later during the day -- a showdown with mighty McDonogh for the IAAM A Conference championship.
St. Paul Gators -- where you are now, you are supposed to be. Now it's up to you to complete the race. But you want to complete the race by looking each other in the eyes and ask yourself one question. What will I give up for the person that's beside me? What will I sacrifice?
For much of the game, Lewis' motivational magic seemed to work. St. Paul's led, 6-4, at the half and 8-4 early during the second half as it looked to end McDonogh's dominance of one of the premier high school girls' lacrosse leagues in the country.
What will I sacrifice? Not for a win or a loss, just for the opportunity to play and say we did it. Whatever your fate is, it's already done. That's why we're in the championship
It was a championship game to savor, with more than a subtle Ravens influence, with as many storylines as when Lewis lined up against the Steelers. Former Ravens kicker Matt Stover's daughter, Jenna, played a strong game for McDonogh as the Eagles scored seven straight goals during the second half for an 11-8 win, their fifth straight A Conference championship and 91st straight victory.
"Speaking of the Ravens," St. Paul's coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland said, "Scott said before the game this is like John and Jim Harbaugh in the Super Bowl. We're like a big family."
Scott is Scott Robinson, McDonogh's assistant coach. His brother, Chris Robinson, is the head coach. Both went to Loyola High School, but have strong ties to Mount Hebron and Howard County athletics. So do Kuhl-McClelland and her husband, Tom, who is her assistant coach.
In 2000, Chris Robinson was the head coach at Mount Hebron when the Vikings began their 103-game winning streak. That same year, he hired Kuhl-McClelland from Hammond High School as his assistant. Two years later, after Robinson became an assistant principal at the school, Kuhl-McClelland was named the head coach, winning 98 straight games before the Vikings lost to West Genesee High of Syracuse in April 2007.
Robinson took over the McDonogh program in 2004. Kuhl-McClelland was named the St. Paul's coach three years ago. They met during the championship game May 13 at Yeardley Love Field on the campus of Notre Dame Prep in Towson.
"We're really good friends," Kuhl-McClelland said. "Before the game, we were hugging each other. I wouldn't have wanted to lose to anybody else. When they brought me over to Mount Herbron, I learned a lot from them. I'm proud of what they've accomplished, and if anybody's going to beat the streak, they should."
McDonogh is now 12 wins shy of the record of 103 straight victories both Mount Hebron and Loch Raven set during the 1970s and early '80s. Joy Nuttall, a member of the Loch Raven Hall of Fame, coached the Raiders then. Their streak began in 1973 and ended with a loss to Severna Park in 1982. They also tied a game, which means their unbeaten streak is actually 104 games.
But the streak is not what pushes this McDonogh team, or the four before them. It's winning the championship in one of the top conferences in the country and playing the game at a high level every game, regardless of who's next on the schedule or where they're ranked in the local and national polls.
"One game at a time," Chris Robinson said. "Believe it or not, it's not a coaching cliché. We never dreamed of doing what we've done. It just kind of evolved and happened. It's not like we're going to try and go undefeated. We're just going to try and win the next game. And so many people thought we'd never make it through this year, playing the best teams out of state and the best teams in our league."
A year ago, Maryvale tested the Eagles during the championship game at Stevenson University, but McDonogh held on to win, 12-11. McDonogh lost 12 players off that team, including high school All-Americans Taylor Cummings, now at Maryland; Corinne Etchison (Georgetown); and Liz Bannantine (Princeton).
But the Eagles haven't missed a beat. They opened the season with a 12-6 win against nationally ranked Vero Beach High of Florida and an 11-8 win against Milton High from Georgia. They opened conference play March 19 with a 12-7 win against St. Paul's and hit their stride in April with impressive wins against Notre Dame Prep, Roland Park, Maryvale, Mount de Sales and Severn by a combined score of 97-36.
McDonogh lost talent and experience last year, but got a new wave of talented players who bought in long ago to Chris Robinson's one-game-at-a-time mantra.
"We could not have gotten here without taking it one game at a time," senior Sammie Burgess said, "because everybody's so good in our league. They're so good you can't just think about getting to the championship game. You have to focus on who you play, because anybody can win in our league."
Burgess, who is headed to the University of Florida, was part of McDonogh's seven-goal blitz during the second half, which began with a save from goalie Allison Silber. St. Paul's senior Amanda Sutor sliced through the McDonogh defense and took what was almost a point-blank shot, which would've put the Gators up, 9-4.
Silber and Sutor both live in the Phoenix section of Baltimore County and both will head next season to Ann Arbor, Mich., where they will be a part of the first women's lacrosse team ever at the University of Michigan.
But instead of Sutor getting her fifth goal of the game, Silber stopped the shot and triggered a fast break, which ended in a goal from McDonogh senior Casey Black.
The Eagles won the ensuing draw and scored 24 seconds later, when Elizabeth George scored her third goal of the game. Just like that, it was 8-6. McDonogh gained momentum, which St. Paul's had owned during the first half thanks to a sensational defensive effort; goalie Carerra Lucas; and an opportunistic offense led by Sutor, senior Shelby Wells and sophomore Paige Aldave.
"Momentum, it is a killer," Kuhl-McClelland said. "Draw control was the thing we absolutely had to have. Early in the game, we had draw control. Then, the momentum shifted."
Momentum in sports is so important, yet so hard to reverse, even for a team as talented and as deep as McDonogh, who struggled during the first half against an inspired Gator attack.
"We couldn't catch a break," Robinson said. "For the first 35 minutes of the game, they took it to us. But a big part of our game is depth. We were fresh and ready to go with 15, 10 minutes to go, and I think we wore them down."
Burgess scored three goals in a row for McDonogh, turning an 8-6 deficit into a 9-8 lead, with 6:44 to play. Megan Whittle scored 25 seconds later and the Gators were in deep trouble.
Even Ray Lewis and the message he left for St. Paul's hours earlier could not stop McDonogh's run.
Go claim the glory-- the glory within your heart, the glory within your spirt. You'll do anything, anything to be with a teammate during this time. This is your time.
"I think the kids got nervous," Kuhl-McClelland said. "They had not done this before, so I think the nerves got the best of them."
St. Paul's struggled when it started losing draws, unable to keep its offense going as its number of possessions decreased.
"You've got to be ready for the momentum to shift at any time," said Sutor, who finished with four goals and two assists. "You got to keep fighting, get the ball back and try to switch it back. We couldn't."
Whittle, who helped McDonogh overcome a 3-0 deficit to Century two weeks ago as the Eagles won, 10-7, said Robinson always preached keeping composure.
"We've been here before," Whittle said. "When we were down, 4-0, in the first half, we just said: 'Let's start getting the draws. Let's start getting the ground balls.' Then the defense started to click and we could transition the ball and make things happen."
Whittle is just a junior, but has already committed to Maryland. When her senior season begins in 2014, the Eagles will be riding a 91-game winning streak.
The streak is by no means irrelevant, but it's not what motivates a team that hasn't lost since April 2009 and hasn't lost locally since May 2008, when it fell to John Carroll during that year's championship game.
"We don't preach it," Robinson said. "It's the media, the forums. Every day in practice, we talk about the next game. It's all we talk about. Let other people talk about that. We just want to talk about the next game."
As for St. Paul's, the Gators lose nine seniors to graduation, but return a ton of talent and a coaching staff that's well aware of what it takes to win.
"We've done a lot this year," said Kuhl-McClelland, whose team finished 13-5, "things we haven't done in a while. We hadn't beaten NDP since 2006. We hadn't beaten Bryn Mawr since 2007. [We] hadn't been to the finals since 2006, so this is new to them. McDonogh has been here before. Our kids don't know what it's like to be there -- but they do now."
Robinson praised Kuhl-McClelland for the work she had done at St. Paul's, and said the Gators had earned their way to the championship.
"They have a great team and great coaches," said Robinson, whose team finished 22-0 and was ranked No. 1 in the country for the fourth straight year. "I don't make predictions, but this is not the last time they're going to be here. They're phenomenal coaches."
Posted May 14, 2013