Earned Not Given: Inside the McDonogh Girls' Lacrosse Dynasty

Nicole Alecce, a senior defender and captain on the McDonogh (Md.) girls’ lacrosse team, interned at US Lacrosse for two weeks in May and authored this retrospective article on the Eagles’ 2017 season.

McDonogh defeated Notre Dame Prep (Md.) 12-9 in the IAAM championship game May 13, extending its national-record winning streak to 177 games. The Eagles finished No. 1 in the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 for the eighth consecutive year under head coach Chris Robinson.

Alecce will join James Madison in the fall.

The Streak

Coming into my senior season and being one of the captains, I told myself that this was not going to be the year for us to lose. I know, in the end, that my control over this is something small. But if I, along with the other captains, could create a team mentality, a team drive to continue a legacy that was created far before us, I truly believed we could go another season undefeated.

So as captains, we decided to use the saying “Earned Not Given” for our slogan on the back of our warm-ups. Each girl took that to heart. They realized this is something we all earn, together.

I was the most scared the streak could end in the IAAM championship game, when we were down by three. I saw it all coming to an end. I almost believed it, as terrible as that is to say. But then I had the utmost confidence in us to come back, because we always do. I was very proud of the whole team that game. We really earned that win.

I had the utmost confidence in us to come back, because we always do.

The Villain

Whenever we are at an away game, everyone who isn’t our parents is rooting for us to lose. Any call going our way is a bad call. Any call not made against us is because the refs want us to win. The entire school we face wants to see us lose.

We’ve always had to overcome the negativity from the outside and always being every team’s target. Making sure we stick together and not letting it affect us is really important to our success.

There is definitely anti-McDonogh sentiment throughout the entire season. You can feel it in each game. No matter who the opponent is, no matter when in the season we play them, we are always every team’s target. They all want to come out and beat us, to be the team take down the McDonogh dynasty. Being able to stay focused and not letting the outside negativity get to us is really important.


The Robinson Effect

Chris as a coach is someone who expects the most out of his players. I remember my junior year right as the season started, I was coming back from an injury and was not playing my best. Chris pulled me aside and talked to me about the expectations he had for me, how he knew the kind of player I was and how I was not playing up to my full potential.

Ever since that talk, I made sure I was giving it my all and more, to prove to him I was deserving of my spot. Chris uses tough love to encourage us. Having him be so invested in each of us makes him that much better of a coach.

My favorite Chris Robinson story?

Last year, I came out to practice with a boot on, and he had no idea. The next day, Julia Hoffman came out with a boot on too, and I think he nearly lost his mind.

So on April Fools’ Day, Brindi Griffin thought it would be funny to put a boot on and act as if she was out. He came up to Brindi and me, and I remember the look on his face was priceless. When she told him she was out, I could just tell he wanted to completely lose it. He called our trainer to ask why we were all injured.

When we told him it was a joke, he wanted to kill us all. That was definitely a good memory I have of him. Bring able to joke around like that with your coach is something special.

The Multi-Sport Mantra

The key to long-term success in the sport is making sure you are involving yourself in other activities throughout your career. If you only do lacrosse fall, winter, spring and summer, it is most likely by the time you get to college you’re going to be burnt out. Having a good balance, making sure you aren’t spending your entire life on lacrosse, is important.

My teammates and I all realized that lacrosse was our No. 1 priority in high school, and we focused the most on it. But we never stopped playing soccer or field hockey or basketball. We made sure we took part in other activities to make returning to the lacrosse field that much better.

The Waiting Game

It is crazy how young kids are committing to college. I was a part of it. The whole process for my friends and me started our freshman year. Some committed that year and others, like me, waited until our sophomore year to commit.

When my sister (Virginia sophomore defender Sophie Alecce) was going through the whole process, people never committed freshman year. Now, it’s like you’re late if you do it anytime later than that, which is crazy to me.

The new NCAA rule not allowing you to communicate with coaches until your junior year is great. You need to grow up and experience more of high school before deciding where you’re going to college. Those who did commit young, I really think they need to visit the school often and keep in contact with other recruits in their class, as well as the coaches, to make sure that you still love your decision.


The End of an Era

We are all a part of history.

Throughout these years, there have been multiple teams who have given us a run for our money. After the final whistle, there is nothing but respect for the other team. No harsh words shared. Nothing mean posted to social media. As a team, we believe that being a genuinely good person is the most important thing.

In the final moments of the IAAM championship game, I remember watching the offense pass the ball around playing keep away with NDP, and I just slowly started to back up. I kept looking at the crowd, at my team and coaches, and I just thought to myself, “This is it. This is my last game as a McDonogh player.”

When the clock hit zero, a wave of excitement came over me. Then, as the celebration ended and we all started hugging, I became nostalgic about this team and how much they’ve done for me over these four years. I am so thankful and lucky I was able to be a part of all this. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of a better team.