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Senior helped spark St. Paul's turnaround

Towson Times Player of the Year Amanda Sutor is driven by a need to succeed.

Against all odds, the senior attacker helped St. Paul's School for Girls squad to a 13-5 record and an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship berth for the first time since 2006.

The turnaround season — the Gators were a disappointing 8-9 in 2012 — could only have happened with the strong leadership Sutor and fellow senior captains Nevi Fernandez, Shelby Wells and Hayley McDonnell provided for coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland.

Sutor was the sparkplug of the bunch, taking charge from the beginning as the Gators looked to shrug off the bad memories of last spring by playing a more cohesive brand of lacrosse this season.

"Shelby, Nevi, Haley and I talked about that right away," said Sutor, who is headed to the University of Michigan to play on the Wolverines' first Division I team, coached by former Maryvale standout Jen Ulelha. "No matter what happened, that was our goal."

It started well before the season began when the captains organized impromptu Sunday scrimmages to help newcomers and veterans alike get used to a new style of play.

"Amanda was instrumental in organizing the team for pre-season workouts," Kuhl-McClelland said. "Her leadership skills with the other captains was key to our success."

By the time the season rolled around, the Gators were ready to start making memories.

After a season-opening loss to McDonogh, St. Paul's rattled off six wins in its next seven games. Included in the opening run were wins over recent nemesis Maryvale, a young Roland Park Country School squad and always dangerous Bryn Mawr.

The rest of the regular season went well enough for St. Pauls' to earn a second seed in the playoffs.

"I think we surprised ourselves how well we played together," she said. "But we came out strong off the bat."

Still, the Gators had to prove themselves all over again in the playoffs by knocking off John Carroll and Bryn Mawr to reach the final against McDonogh.

Much to her delight, she and the Gators delivered when it counted most.

"I stepped up like I hoped I would," she said. "It meant a lot to do that."

According to Kuhl-McClelland, Sutor's ability to come through in big games started in a playoff-opening 17-7 win over John Carroll.

"Two weeks prior she stepped on a ball at John Carroll and twisted an ankle, which rendered her less effective," the coach remembered. "But she still scored the game winner — her only tally of the game. In the playoff game her hope was that John Carroll wouldn't see her as a threat due to lack of production in first meeting. It turned out to be quite true. Amanda scored six goals and four assists."

She followed that effort with three goals and three assists in a 12-9 victory over Bryn Mawr. Two of the feeds went to fellow senior Sam Fine as the Gators built an 8-3 lead and then held on for a hard-earned triumph.

The championship game against McDonogh started off almost as well as its other postseason contests concluded.

The Gators built an 8-4 halftime advantage until the undefeated Eagles rallied past them for an 11-8 win and their 91st consecutive victory.

"In the first half, when I finally looked at the scoreboard, I said, 'Wow. We can really do this,'" said Sutor, who led all scorers with four goals and two assists to give her a healthy 22 for the postseason. "But I think we ran out of steam, a little bit. We just don't have McDonogh's depth."

All in all, Sutor considers the season an outright success.

"I learned how to be a better leader and how to appreciate working on those skills," she said. "That's something I really wanted to work on this season."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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