When St. Mary's had a resurgence in 2016, one of the key reasons was goalie Taylor Suplee.
Judging by its record, Southern's recent season didn't qualify as a resurgence. That doesn't mean Suplee didn't play in a key role in helping the Bulldogs return to the Class 2A/1A East Region final.
Suplee, the Capital Gazette Communications Player of the Year, transferred to Southern after a year at Bullis followed by one season at St. Mary's. The South County resident was a welcome addition to the team and joined several former teammates from rec and club ball.
"Once I found out, I was very excited," Bulldogs' coach Arvak Marshall said. "From the beginning, she was a great teammate and had a good relationship with everyone."
Suplee, who was a first-team All-County selection in 2016 after saving 54 percent of the shots she faced in leading St. Mary's to a 14-5 record after finishing five games under .500 the previous year, made her presence known with her new team right away. She stopped 18 shots in a victory over Broadneck in the first week of the season, including a stretch where the Bruins were held scoreless for 15 minutes. The Bulldogs went on to win their next four games for a 6-0 start where Suplee gave up double-digits in goals just once.
In fact, the seven goals given up in the Broadneck game was slightly above her 5.77 goals against average for the season. She saved 62 percent of the shots she faced and was impressive on free positions with a save percentage of 65.
Princeton's Ellie DeGarmo was the top goalie in Division I women's lacrosse this year with a save percentage of 55.
"Anything above 60 percent is very good," Marshall said. "She was 65 percent on the eight meters, and you normally want your shooters to be around 50."
Suplee, who verbally committed to Penn State on Feb. 14 of her freshman year, had 14 saves against South River and 12 against Chesapeake — games the Bulldogs won by a goal. The 18 saves against Broadneck was a season-high for Suplee, who averaged 12 saves a game.
"Getting that first win helped set the tempo for the season," Suplee said. "I grew up playing with a lot of the Southern girls, so that made the transition real easy."
After playing for three schools in three years, Suplee is content at Southern and plans to remain at the Harwood school for her senior year. Her father, Mitch, is an assistant coach for the football team and was a standout lineman at South River and the University of Maryland. Her sister, Mia, was a defender at St. Mary's and is headed to Jacksonville University. A younger sister, Sierra, is an incoming freshman at Southern and plans to join Taylor on the lacrosse team.
Even though lacrosse, even more on the women's side, is set up for the offense to score, Southern posted four shutouts this year, including back-to-back routs in the playoffs. Two of the Bulldogs' four losses were to county champion and Class 4A/3A state finalist Severna Park, but Suplee was impressive in the April 26 meeting with the Falcons where she stopped seven shots — several on high-percentage chances — and kept the Falcons off the scoreboard the final 18 minutes of the game.
Another important aspect of Suplee's game is her ability to clear the ball following a save. She's able to pass the ball roughly 75 yards, which often leads to transition opportunities for the offense.
"This year Arvak and I really worked on my clears," Suplee said. "We're going to continue refining some of the details for next year."
When asked if her commitment to Penn State was firm, Suplee didn't hesitate. Even though she could have followed in her father's footsteps and played at Maryland, she's looking forward to joining a Penn State team that is coming off a final four berth, led by county products Erika Spilker (Severna Park), Kayla Brisolari (Archbishop Spalding), Steph Lazo (St. Mary's) and Madison Carter (South River).
"I just really love the campus and the atmosphere at Penn State," Suplee said. "I love Maryland, especially since my dad went there, but Penn State looks like a really good fit for me."
Before she heads to Penn State, Suplee will return for one more year at Southern and looks to feed off the momentum of this year's season where the Bulldogs won all their county games outside of the Severna Park losses, a berth in the county championship and a deep playoff run.
"She wants to get better, which makes it awesome to work with her every day," Marshall said. "We have some things we'll work on in the offseason. She's very tough on herself, but she has a great mentality."