USA TODAY High School Sports presents the 2017-18 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Lacrosse Team. The honorees were selected based on performance, level of competition and strength of schedule.
Player of the Year: Hannah Mardiney, Notre Dame Prep
School: Notre Dame Prep (Towson, Md.)
Record: 16-4, IAAM A Conference champions
Believing was one thing. Actually doing it was another.
After seeing a late lead slip away in an overtime loss against (Owings Mills, Md.) McDonogh during the regular season, the Notre Dame Prep girls lacrosse team thought they could be the one to knock off the mighty Eagles if they only could get another chance.
Eleven days after that 11-10 loss, the Blazers earned that chance in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland ‘A’ Conference state championship game. They did not disappoint, winning the state title with a 10-8 victory that ended McDonogh’s nine-year win streak at 198 games.
“We lost to McDonogh in overtime during the regular season and our girls came away from that with the belief that they let one slip away,” said Notre Dame Prep coach Mac Ford, the ALL-USA Coach of the Year. “They believed that they could win if they got another shot. They were determined to get to that championship game.”
The foundation for that victory started a year earlier when Notre Dame Prep lost to McDonogh, 12-9, in the state final. Entering his fourth season with the Blazers this spring, Ford knew how good his team could be so he set up a challenging early-season schedule. That included a gauntlet of the top private and public schools in Maryland as well as a pair of games against New York powers Garden City and Mount Sinai.
“We knew we could be very good and decided to play the toughest national schedule that we could early on in hopes to peak at the end of the season,” Ford said.
Losing three of their first eight games didn’t faze the Blazers, it made them stronger. They won nine of their final 10 regular-season games (the only loss coming against McDonogh) and entered the IAAM tournament as the No. 3 seed. They breezed past Mount De Sales (Catonsville, Md.) in the quarterfinals, then took out No. 2 Glenelg Country School—which beat NDP in the season opener—to set up the final against McDonogh.
The title game was close throughout but the Blazers never trailed. Every time McDonogh would get close, NDP would score the next goal to maintain its advantage. The Blazers all but clinched the title with an empty-net goal from Brooke Barger with less than a minute to play.
“My girls believed that it was their time and went out and played to win,” Ford said. “We beat McDonogh because of our 21 seniors and their leadership.”
PRESEASON: ALL-USA Preseason Girls Lacrosse Team
LOOKBACK: 2016-17 ALL-USA Girls Lacrosse Teams