St. Paul's School for Girls' season of redemption will continue for at least one more game after the No. 4 Gators advanced to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference lacrosse championship game by beating No. 3 Bryn Mawr, 12-9, in a playoff semifinal Wednesday afternoon in Brooklandville.
They will face McDonogh at Gerstell Academy in Finksburg on Saturday at 5 p.m.
For St. Paul's (13-4, 10-2 league), which sputtered to an 8-9 record in 2012, the turnaround this spring has been dramatic under coach Brooke Kuhl-McLelland and a group of double-teaming, ground ball-glomming, hard-shooting players who are as fiery as their coach.
Yet, after appearing to be on the verge of blowing out the Mawrtians (11-6, 9-3) by taking an 8-3 advantage on a goal by Michigan-bound senior attacker Amanda Sutor early in the second half, the Gators were the ones or their heels during Bryn Mawr's 6-1 run that deadlocked the score with 5:54 to go.
Playing without leading scorer and vocal leader Kate Snouffer, the Mawrtians clawed back on three goals by Ellie Knott, one each by her fellow senior midfielders Molly Danko and Caroline Joy and one by sophomore midfielder Julia Feiss.
"When you lose your leading scorer, that's tough," Bryn Mawr coach Wendy Kridel said. "But it gave other kids opportunities to contribute. The difference without Kate is that everybody else has to get a couple (of goals), or at least one."
Still, St. Paul's did not wilt with momentum clearly on the Mawrtians' side.
Instead, the Gators found the resolve to score the game's final three goals on a free position by senior attacker Haley McDonnell, a give-and-go finish by Samantha Fine from McDonnell and an empty-netter by senior midfielder Shelby Wells.
"We've been in so many one-goal games (going 5-1, including a 10-9 win over Bryn Mawr) this year," said Wells, a Delaware signee. "That really helped us. We decided not to keep our heads down, and we went hard after every 50-50 ball."
St. Paul's strong start was also a deciding factor, scoring four unanswered goals in less than five minutes to take a 7-2 lead with 6:34 left in the first half on goals by Sutor, Fine and senior midfielder Julia Fountain.
As for the possibility of meeting heavily favored No. 1 McDonogh in the championship, Kuhl-McClelland said her Gators won't be afraid.
"When we played them the first game of the year (a 12-7 loss), they had to keep their first line in there," she said. "We played them tough. And now we have an extra day to game-plan for them. That could be important."
Goals: BM-Danko 1, Feiss 2, Ferrell 1, Groenke 1, Joy1, Knott 3
SP-Sutor 3, Fine 3, McDonnell 1, Aldave 1, Fountain 1, Wells 3
Assists: BM-Knott 1 SP-Sutor 3, McDonnell 1
Saves: BM-DeGarmo 7 SP-Lucas 7
Half: SP, 7-3