Commentary

Spalding gets the upper hand on the scoreboard

Updated: September 29, 2009, 10:35 AM ET
By Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

When it comes to girls' soccer, Archbishop Spalding (Severn, Md.) simply has McDonogh's (Owings Mills, Md.) number.

Perhaps not in terms of possession or shots, but where it matters most -- the scoreboard.

Spalding ran its record to 7-1-1 in the last nine meetings with McDonogh following a 1-0 victory in a battle of FAB 50 Top 10 programs Friday.

The match was one of two weekend contests that featured Top 10 girls' teams going head-to-head. In the other, Downingtown West (Downingtown, Pa.) used a Morgan Dankanich goal assisted by Sarah Cardamone goal in the closing seconds to edge Conestoga (Berwyn, Pa.), 2-1.

That combination of results, plus a loss by last week's FAB 50 No. 1 Jesuit (Portland, Ore.), allows Downingtown West to move into the No. 1 spot this week followed by Spalding at No. 2.

"They outshot us. They did a better job controlling the midfield. Our defense bent, but did not break," said Spalding coach Bob Dieterle following the victory. "In the second half, we got a break."

That break came in the form of a goal by sophomore midfielder Francesca Springer on a play set up by Olivia Tomoff with four minutes left in regulation.

Spalding is 10-0-0 and faces a pair of quality opponents the next two weeks in former FAB 50-ranked Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) and undefeated John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.). McDonogh slips to 6-1-0. The teams are expected to finish first-second in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) A Conference race and could meet again in the postseason.

Downingtown West, meanwhile, fell behind two-time defending state champion Conestoga only two minutes into the match. However, the Whippets evened the score on a late first-half penalty kick by Steph Myers, followed by Dankanich's game-winning goal late in the second half.

Downingtown West's victory moves the team to 8-0-0 while Conestoga falls to 7-1-0.

TAKING HEART: Tournaments that showcase teams from various states are vital for legitimate national rankings, and Quincy (Ill.) assistant boys' soccer coach Eric Stratman is adding a new girls' soccer event into that mix for the spring. Stratman has created the Heart of America Soccer Classic, which will be held April 9-10, 2010, in the Kansas City area. Eight teams from seven states have committed to the event. Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.), which finished No. 21 in last spring's final girls FAB 50, and Lee's Summit North (Lee's Summit, Mo.), which placed No. 34, highlight the current list of participants. The six other committed teams are Battlefield (Haymarket, Va.), Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.), Grandview (Aurora, Colo.), Pinewood Prep (Summerville, S.C.), St. James (Lenexa, Kan.) and Union (Tulsa, Okla.).

RANKINGS SHAKE-UP: For the first time in 11 years of the FAB 50 rankings, both the boys' and girls' No. 1 teams lost on the same day. Brentwood (N.Y.) saw its 78-match league win streak end in a 2-1 loss to Commack, while Jesuit (Portland, Ore.) was dealt a 2-0 setback by FAB 50-ranked Westview (Portland, Ore.) on Thursday. Brentwood, last year's FAB 50 fall national champion, lost a second time last week, falling to Ward Melville on Saturday.

Sheldon Shealer covers high school soccer for ESPN RISE. He can be reached at sheldon.shealer@espn.com.