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Where Does McDonogh Girls' Lacrosse Rank Among Local Dynasties?

April 22, 2014

104, 105, 106 … and counting.

The McDonogh girls' lacrosse streak is up to 106 games. Time will tell where and when it will end, though an intriguing question lingers as the Eagles take aim at a sixth straight IAAM A Conference championship. Where do the Eagles rank among the great dynasties in local high school sports history?

McDonogh 2014 Girls Lacrosse
Photo Credit: Anita Smith/McDonogh

They rank among the best of the best.

The Eagles put together one of the greatest weeks ever in local lacrosse, beating Marriotts Ridge, St. Paul's, North Harford and Mt. Hebron to break Loch Raven and Mt. Hebron's record of 103 straight wins, and Loch Raven's 104-game unbeaten streak, which began in 1973 and ended in 1982.

But it's not so much what the Eagles have done, as to how they did it -- playing and beating some of the premier teams in the country while playing in perhaps the best girls' lacrosse league in the nation.

"Looking at some of the other streaks, teams can walk out on the field and win 20-0," McDonogh coach Chris Robinson told WBAL-TV after the Eagles beat St. Paul's April 17 at McDonogh for their 104th straight win. "We can't do that. We play teams in our league and even out of conference that are so tough, and I think that makes our streak that much more remarkable. Every game, we can get beat. So out of those 104, there weren't many where we can just walk out on the field and get a victory." 

Chris Robinson was the head coach at Mt. Hebron when the Vikings were putting together their streak of 103 straight wins, which ended in 2007. He took over the McDonogh program in 2004. 

On April 13, 2009, the Eagles beat Winters Mill of Carroll County, 15-11. It came two days after they had lost to the Canandaigua Academy of Rochester, N.Y., a team led by Taylor D'Amore, now a senior midfielder for the nationally ranked women's team at John Hopkins. McDonogh hasn't lost since. 

And since then, the Eagles have taken on all comers.

They have faced out-of-state teams such as St. Stephen's & St. Agnes of Alexandria, Va.; Penfield, Baldwinsville, Brighton, St. Anthony's and Garden City of New York; The Episcopal Academy of Pennsylvania; Taft High of Connecticut; and Vero Beach High of Florida. Locally, McDonogh has beaten Marriotts Ridge, which has won two of the last three Class 3A/2A state championships; Century, a four-time state champ; and Good Counsel, one of the premier private school programs in the Washington, D.C., area. 

Add to that the daily grind of the IAAM A Conference, a league that also includes some of the best teams in the country in Notre Dame Prep, Severn, St. Paul's, Maryvale, John Carroll and Archbishop Spalding.

"We played the New York state champions," Robinson said, "the best from Virginia, the best from D.C., from Florida, and we play every day here against the best in Maryland."

And that includes Marriotts Ridge, ranked No. 2 behind McDonogh in The Baltimore Sun poll when the week began, and St. Paul's, who lost to the Eagles during the 2013 A Conference championship game.

The Eagles beat Marriotts Ridge, 16-9, April 14 as Elizabeth George and Megan Whittle led a balanced attack, which allowed McDonogh to pull away during the second half.

McDonogh hosted St. Paul's April 16 for a rematch of last year's conference championship. During that game in May 2013, the Gators jumped out to a 4-0 lead and led at the half before the Eagles ripped off seven straight goals on their way to an 11-8 victory and a fifth straight conference championship.

This time, with an army of fans and local and national media on hand, the Eagles jumped out to an 11-1 lead with 13 minutes left during the third quarter, and won, 18-10.

"We don't really focus on the streak," said Whittle, who is committed to the University of Maryland. "Coach Chris is very focused on taking it a day at a time -- focused on the game at hand, the next game."

The one-game-at-a-time mantra is one many coaches preach, though few can master it. The Eagles appear to have done just that.

"We don't talk about the streak," said George, one of the best junior midfielders in the country. "Coach Chris doesn't put that pressure on us. But we got it, and everybody's excited."

George scored five goals against Marriotts Ridge and added a goal and an assist against St. Paul's. Whittle scored three goals against Marriotts Ridge and six more with three assists against St. Paul's, while Brindi Griffin and Olivia Jenner scored three each.

"Coach Chris said everything after this is icing on the cake in terms of the streak," Whittle said. "But right now, we're focusing on the rest of our season -- just playing hard and doing our thing."

That meant a pair of games April 19 at the Fight for Five tournament at Cedar Lane Park in Howard County

Whittle scored six more goals and Griffin two as the Eagles beat North Harford, 15-8, April 19 for their 105th straight win. No. 106 came a few hours later, as Griffin scored five, George four and Kelsey Cummings three as McDonogh handed Mt. Hebron its first loss of the year, 15-7.

Kelsey Cummings is the sister of Taylor Cummings, who was a three-sport athlete at McDonogh. Taylor Cummings is now a sophomore at Maryland and one of two former McDonogh players on the Terps' roster. The other is junior Casey Pepperman, who began her college career at Louisville before transferring to Maryland after the 2012 season.

And that leads to another question. With so many talented former McDonogh players scattered across the country playing for some of the nation's best college programs, which one of the McDonogh teams from the last five years is the best?

How can you tell? All five teams have played the best teams in the country and, with the exception of the 2009 team's lone loss, they've all finished unbeaten.

To the current team, it does not matter.

"We get texts from the alumni all the time," George said. " 'Great game,' 'Big win,' telling us, 'Good job,' 'Way to go.' There's a strong bond between the girls who played before us and our team." 

Pepperman graduated in 2011, while Taylor Cummings ended her high school career in 2012, after being named The Baltimore Sun's Athlete of the Year. Also a basketball and soccer standout, Taylor Cummings, who grew up in Ellicott City, was an Under Armour All-American as a senior at McDonogh and a first-team All-American in 2013 as a freshman at Maryland.

Forest Hill's Sammi Burgess is a freshman at Florida, ranked fourth in country, behind Syracuse, Maryland and North Carolina. She graduated last year from McDonogh and was a teammate on the 2012 juggernaut, which ripped Vero Beach, Garden City and New York's Hauppauge High by a combined score of 49-15.

Towson native Jen Cook is a junior at Johns Hopkins, where she has helped coach Janine Tucker's Blue Jays win 12 of 15 games this year and earn the nation's No. 7 ranking. Cook graduated from McDonogh in 2011, when the Eagles beat Taft, Brighton, Baldwinsville and St. Anthony's by a combined score of 71-24, and capped off their undefeated regular season with an 18-17 win against Roland Park for the championship.

Casey Black of Lutherville and Taylor Virden of Ellicott City start for eighth-ranked Duke Blue Devils. Black, a freshman, graduated from McDonogh last year and did not lose a game in her four years at McDonogh. Virden, a senior, graduated in 2010, when the streak was still young.

***

Two of the greatest sports dynasties in Baltimore area prep sports are the Dunbar boys' basketball team and the swim team at Loyola Blakefield. 

First under coach Tim Pierce, then Murray Stephens and now Keith Schertle, the Dons have dominated area swimming. Since the MIAA was formed in 1994, they've lost the championship one time, in 2012, when McDonogh won it. Severn earned a share of the 2013-14 MIAA A Conference championship, giving the Dons 19 of the last 20 championships.

Before that, they also dominated the old MSA Conference, which was often a two-team swim competition between Loyola and Calvert Hall.

When William "Sugar" Cain and his Poets beat DeMatha in the now-famous game at the Baltimore Civic Center in February 1973, they put the Poets on the national high school basketball map. They have been relevant ever since, a 40-year city and state powerhouse, which has won three national championships.

Bob Wade took over the program in 1975. His first team finished 23-1 and won the MSA championship. In 1983, the Poets won their first national championship with a lineup that included four future NBA players -- Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, David Wingate, Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis. In 1992, under coach Pete Pompey, the Poets won a third national title as Michael Lloyd, Keith Booth, Donta Bright, Paul Banks and Cyrus Jones finished 28-0. 

Another one of the best programs in the state has been the Severna Park field hockey team. Under Lil Shelton and now Ann Andrews, the Falcons have 21 state championships since 1979.

The girls' lacrosse team at McDonogh is having a similar impact. Since the streak began in April 2009, girls' lacrosse in the Baltimore area has exploded, at the youth, club and high school levels.

Robinson also runs the M&D club lacrosse team, which is one of the elite clubs in the country, along other local programs such as TLC Lacrosse, Sky Walkers, Hero's Tournament Lacrosse Club, SPLax, Maryland United Lacrosse Club and Diamonds Lacrosse Club. These clubs provide the A Conference teams and powerhouse public school teams of Marriotts Ridge, Century, Broadneck and Severna Park with the majority of their players. 

During the fall of 1973, Gus Grason took over the girls' basketball program at Towson Catholic. Five years later, behind Lori Kearney and Martha Lappe, the Owlettes won their first Baltimore Archdiocesan tournament. By 1983, behind Tori Harrison and Gert Scott, they were a national powerhouse, winning three national championships and raising the standard of girls' basketball in Baltimore.

Harrison was named a Parade Magazine All-American in 1983, before moving on to Louisiana Tech, where she was named the MVP as Tech won the 1987 women's national championship.

Scott played college basketball at LSU and made an impression on a young Baltimore teenager named Dana Johnson, who later anchored the great teams of coach Breezy Bishop at Western High during the late 1980s and early '90s.

Johnson graduated in 1991 and played for Pat Summitt at Tennessee.

Like Harrison and Scott nearly a decade earlier, Johnson helped raise the bar in local girls' basketball, a bar that continued to rise under the talent of Angel McCoughtry, who graduated from St. Frances in 2004 and helped the Panthers win three of their seven championships during an eight-year run in the A Conference. McCoughtry also helped the United States win a gold medal in women's basketball during the 2012 London Olympics.

There have been other dynasties. The great wrestling teams of coach Neil Adelberg during the late 1970s and '80s changed the sport. John and Andy Hefner, Louis and Rico Chiapparelli, Keith Dixon, Harry Barnabae, Guy Zanti and Greg Peery set a standard that the McDonogh and Mount St. Joseph programs of today are trying to take to an even higher level. 

Coach Bernie Walter's baseball teams at Arundel High won 10 state championships and went to the finals five times throughout his 36 years at the school, while Calvert Hall is still in the midst of one of the great runs ever in area baseball. 

Under coach Lou Eckerl, the Cardinals won five straight MIAA A Conference championships from 2005-09, and seven of the last nine while Bill Karpovich won 422 games and 19 championships during his 30 years running the Calvert Hall soccer program.

Hereford's boys' and girls' cross country programs have been area and state powers since the late 1950s. The boys won 12 state titles from 1957-77, while the girls have won eight since 1978.

And now there is the McDonogh girls' lacrosse program. Time will tell when the Eagles will lose again, and where they will stand among the best of the best.

"I'm proud of the way our girls came out and played," Robinson said of his team's first half against St. Paul's April 17. "I thought they might come out a little nervous or too pumped up, and we'd be sloppy. But we came out and played a really great first half."

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