Glenelg senior Anna Callahan seizes girls lacrosse Player of the Year honors

It was the first tryout of Anna Callahan’s freshman lacrosse season at Glenelg, and already assistant coach Alex Pagnotta could not tolerate one of her on-field quirks.

“When you’re on the field, and whether you’re open or not, I don’t like wanna hear someone yelling, ‘Here, here, here. Throw me the ball, throw me the ball, give me the ball,’” Pagnotta said. “Maybe one, ‘Hey I’m open, look, look, look.’ Maybe something like that.

“But Anna came in and she would run down the field and be like, ‘here, here, here, here, here, here, here!’”

Having coached Callahan on youth clubs such as Cobra and Heros and continuing to monitor her development as she grew up, Pagnotta knew of Callahan’s potential. He was confident she would make an impact on the Gladiators’ varsity program from Day 1 and was particularly impressed with her speed and strength. He admired her willingness to assume the role of playmaker without having played in a high school game.

But constantly demanding the ball? Pagnotta would not tolerate that, and he made sure to voice his disapproval to the entire group after the workout. The indirect call-out remains with Callahan more than four years later.

“I love coach Alex,” said Callahan, who said her and Pagnotta joke about it nowadays. “I just felt so nervous before these tryouts, and he indirectly came for my life about doing that. And to this day, I won’t ever say that again on the field.”

Her ability to accept criticism and correct mistakes has been a constant since that workout, while her physical and technical abilities have grown steadily over a high school career. After all, she morphed from a freshman role player to a sophomore contributor to a junior first-team All-County player that was among the top league scorers.

And this spring, as a senior captain, Callahan produced her best season yet. Amid a campaign in which she finished second in the county with 80 points (52 goals and 28 assists), Callahan, a Duke commit, was one of 44 players across the country to be named an Under Armour All-American. She then capped her career by helping Glenelg secure its third straight state title.

All of these stats, wins and accolades led to another honor Callahan will carry with her to college: Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Player of the Year.

“I’m so excited that she gets to win player of the year because she really deserves it,” said Jenny Giampalmo, a junior midfielder and one of Callahan’s closest friends on the team. “Every day out there at practice, just giving it her all, and then it carries over to the games, too. She’s been a really great leader and player for our team. I don’t think we could have accomplished everything that we did this year without her.”

Those around Callahan bring up similar traits when describing her on-field dominance. Pagnotta mentioned her athleticism and her “desire to excel from an early age.” Scott Robinson, who coached Callahan at the M&D Lacrosse Club from sixth to 11th grade, immediately noticed her speed and aptness to change fields and be a “human clear” when the ball was in the defensive third.

But everyone, from her coaches to her teammates, emphasized her work ethic.

“It’s her desire to be the best,” Pagnotta said. “She brings it and asks for more and is always willing to step up and do whatever it takes to get to that next level.”

Callahan said her ambition stems from the passion she developed for lacrosse as a child. The daughter of two college athletes — her father, Steve, played soccer at Richmond, while her mother, Christine, was a cheerleader at Loyola — Callahan grew up playing several sports. At one point, either in third or fourth grade, she played six sports (soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, tennis and golf.)

She played basketball her freshman year and soccer her entire high school career — serving as a junior and senior captain — but neither sport drew her in like lacrosse. She enjoyed the fast and mostly uninterrupted pace of play and could channel her aggressiveness in a positive manner.

Whenever she scored or teammates scored — or did anything substantial for that matter — Callahan received an adrenaline rush. Her vicious screams, the ones where her veins pop out of her neck, and the occasional bark are well known around the Glenelg program, Pagnotta said. She’s constantly in search of the next positive play, something to warrant unleashing that excitement.

“My first year as an assistant, you know right away that she loved it, and her attitude is just so passionate and positive and happy,” said coach Nicole Trunzo, who joined the program in 2016. “She tells herself, ‘OK, I have to do this.’ And she does it.”

Callahan did not always have this unwavering confidence. As a freshman in 2015, an unsure Callahan latched on to then-senior and first-team All-County attacker Hannah Doughty for guidance. In the short team, Doughty picked up Callahan when she made mistakes. But in the long run, Doughty displayed the leadership skills Callahan would attempt to model as she matured and attempted to assist her younger counterparts.

And she had plenty of time to fine-tune those skills. During Callahan’s sophomore year in 2016, a strong junior class powered Glenelg to a playoff upset over Marriotts Ridge and all the way the program’s first state title since 2008.

The Gladiators then rode the momentum of that championship all the way through the 2017 campaign, finishing 20-0 and crushing C. Milton Wright to secure their second straight state crown. Callahan (56 goals and 14 assists) finished fifth in points in the county that season.

“The state championships were pretty awesome to me, but I’ll remember every team in their own way,” Callahan said. “I was lucky enough to spend time with my best friend, who is [two-time Player of the Year Courtney Renehan], so getting to spend two years with her was awesome.

“And I’ll remember everything with my teammates and the younger girls, like Jenny Giampalmo, she is just the best.”

Callahan will first remember this year’s team for its initial uncertainty. She entered the season stressed about how the Gladiators would respond without Renehan, as well as other first-team All-County selections Lindsay LeTellier, Alayna Pagnotta and Caroline Kwon. There was a lot of “trial and error,” she said, with different plays and players at new positions, and the season-opening loss to Notre Dame Prep — the program’s first since May 3, 2016 — exposed those weaknesses.

“I’ve never been so down on myself,” Callahan said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I played terrible, our team did not play well together, holy crap this is the first game. I’m so worried this is what the season is going to be like.’”

A 9-8 loss to nationally ranked St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes came a week later, but the defeat had the opposite effect as the one before it. The new-look Gladiators were pleased with their performance. Like past state champions, they too could hang with some of the country’s best competition.

Throughout the season, Pagnotta maintained this group could be as good if not better than last year’s undefeated squad. Players shrugged him off. “Oh, sure coach Alex, whatever,” Callahan said, talking for herself and her teammates.

But once Glenelg built a winning streak, the players bought in to his once farfetched proposition. The Gladiators finished the county slate undefeated thanks to a 15-10 win over Marriotts Ridge on April 14, then held on to oust the Mustangs in the sectional final. Two dominating wins followed, and in the state championship, their late-game resolve resulted in a 6-5 victory over Hereford.

“I will remember this team as a team that never gave up, and I think that goes to show like games against Marriotts Ridge, that was a fight,” Callahan said. “And on the field the second game we played, that was an absolute bear fight. And we never gave up and we showed strength in that aspect and strength in our personalities that we have — we’re all very different on our team — and we came together as one.”

As Callahan prepares to embark on her next challenge — she plans to work out twice a day six days per week this summer before enrolling at Duke — she makes sure give thanks to the people that helped her reach this point. There’s her high school coaches (Pagnotta and Trunzo), her club coach (Robinson), her teammates, both former (Renehan and Doughty) and current (McSally and Giampalmo).

As for Glenelg, it’ll be forced to move on from its third straight Player of the Year while attempting to win its fourth straight state title.

“Not big in stature, but there’s going to be some big shoes to fill next year,” Pagnotta said. “What was she was capable of doing was changing the momentum of the game. She would make that first shot and the net ripples back and forth and the intensity she brought. I’m going to need somebody next year to step up and find that intensity.”

Also named to the first-team All-County:

Attack

Georgia Esmond, Glenelg, senior. Esmond, a three-time All-County player, was again one of the top scorers in the county this spring. She finished third behind Callahan and Rachel Scheinberg in goals (45) and led Glenelg in assists (29) to finish with 74 points, the fifth-most in the league.

“Georgia is such a skilled player and great leader,” Gladiators coach Nicole Trunzo said. “She does a great job communicating on the field. Georgia worked really hard this offseason, and it really showed with her skills. Her determination is awesome, and she is a great finisher. She did a great job on leading the offense this year.”

Gaby Hamburger, River Hill, senior. Hamburger was a quality attacker as a sophomore and one of the county’s best a year ago — earning second-team All-County in both campaigns — but she took her offensive game to an entirely new level this season.

She ran away with the scoring title thanks to a league-best 71 goals to go along with 35 assists. Hamburger, who will play at Princeton next season, reached the 10-point mark four times and scored at least four goals in 11 of the team’s 16 games.

“Gaby was the quarterback of our offense,” Hawks coach Amy Weinberg said. “She was involved in almost every play, whether it was scoring or setting up her teammates. Throughout the season she grew as a player and leader and that allowed her to have one of her most successful seasons.”

Victoria Hensh, Marriotts Ridge, junior. Hensh is a “natural attacker with stellar stick skills,” coach Amanda Brady said, and those traits helped her finish second on the team behind senior Hayleigh Simpson in goals (45) and points (56). She also made her presence felt in the draw circle, coming up with a team-high 78 draw controls.

“Victoria has the ability to dodge anywhere in the [8-meter arc] that is nearly unstoppable,” Brady said. “Everyone knows it’s coming, yet no one can stay with her speed and control while doing it.”

Ellie Miller, Mt. Hebron, junior. Miller stuffed the stat sheet for 3A state runner-up Mt. Hebron, which won its first region title since 2012 and made its first championship appearance since 2009.

In 19 games, the junior attacker totaled 65 draw controls, 62 points, 54 ground balls and 53 goals, all of which were among the top 10 among county players. Miller paired with senior midfielder Erin Demek to form one of the league’s most lethal offensive duos.

“A three-year varsity player, Ellie is an offensive leader and impact player on the draw unit,” coach Lindsay Menton said.

Rachel Scheinberg, Glenelg, senior. An injury-riddled career gave way to a breakout senior campaign for Scheinberg, who emerged as one of the county’s top goal scorers. She converted 51 scoring chances, the second most on Glenelg behind Callahan. In five postseason games, she combined to score 16 goals — including five in a sectional final triumph over Marriotts Ridge — to propel Glenelg to its third straight state championship.

“She plays so poised and is so dominating,” coach Nicole Trunzo said. “She really was a crucial player with the heavy schedule we played this year.”

Midfield

Shay Ahearn, Glenelg Country, junior. Ahearn, who earned a first-team All-County spot last season, again proved to be a dangerous scoring threat, evident by her team-high 40 goals, and a quality passer who dished out 14 assists. She also finished second on the Dragons with 55 draw controls after 96 draw control wins a year ago. And all of these statistics came in one of the toughest leagues, the IAAM A Conference, where Glenelg Country (9-3, 12-5 overall) finished second in the regular season standings behind McDonogh.

“Shay is the type of player that gives our team an edge just by stepping on the field,” coach Brian Reese said. “She is a tough competitor that played through injuries all season. She demands extra attention from opposing defenses, and Shay was able to make the right plays that helped the team win games.”

Erin Demek, Mt. Hebron, senior. Demek, a four-year starter and two-year captain, served as the anchor for the Vikings during their state championship run. Offensively, she ended the season third in the county with 77 points (54 goals and 23 assists) and notched her 100th career conversion. On defense, her 20 caused turnovers were second to only Glenelg’s Emily Nalls. Demek was also a significant part of the team’s draw unit, leading the group with 70 draw controls, and added 29 ground balls and eight interceptions.

“A three sport athlete, Erin is a versatile midfielder who makes a significant impact on both ends of the field,” coach Lindsay Menton said.

Jenny Giampalmo, Glenelg, junior. While Callahan, Esmond and Scheinberg accounted for the majority of Glenelg’s scoring this season, Giampalmo created many of those chances with her success in the draw circle.

Giampalmo secured at least 90 draw controls wins for the second straight season, and her 91 this year were second in the county. And she was not just a draw specialist, either. Giampalmo’s 25 goals were the sixth-most on the team, and she picked up 16 ground balls and caused nine turnovers.

“Jenny is so calm and coachable,” coach Nicole Trunzo said. “She works hard all year-round and is just the epitome of a team player. She’s a force in the midfield. We’re really happy we have her for one more year.”

Eloise Clevenger, Marriotts Ridge, sophomore. Clevenger was one of two sophomores to make first-team All-County after becoming one of the Mustangs’ most reliable offensive contributors. She finished third on the team with 52 points (40 goals and 12 assists) while adding 43 draw controls.

“Eloise is a student of the game and can read the game very well,” coach Amanda Brady said. “Her innate lacrosse IQ combined with her natural athleticism creates a threat all over the field.”

Hannah Glaros, Glenelg Country, senior. Glaros provided senior leadership and solid all-around production for Glenelg Country, which finished the season ranked No. 16 nationally by US Lacrosse Magazine. She tallied 31 goals — scoring in 16 of the team’s 17 games — and earned 30 draw controls.

“Hannah made her contributions felt all over the field and was a force dodging to the goal and cutting off ball,” coach Brian Reese said. “Hannah can use her speed and height to her advantage and possesses a great shot.”

Marissa Lagera, Centennial, junior. Playing its first year in the county’s upper tier, Centennial relied heavily on Lagera and senior midfielder Claudia Pilcher to keep up with opponents’ high-octane attacks.

Like last season, Lagera scored 41 goals — second most on the team to Pilcher — while adding 56 ground balls and 48 draw controls. Lagera will eventually continue her career at Monmouth, but before that happens, she has one more season with the Eagles. And with the graduation of Pilcher, Lagera may have to shoulder even more of the scoring load as a senior.

“In her third year as a varsity starter, Marissa Lagera continued to step out of her comfort zone and play a mostly attack role,” coach Bethany Cunha said. “Her sophisticated stick skills and game sense made her a natural choice.”

Lindsey Marshall, Glenelg Country, sophomore. Just a sophomore, Marshall has been a force in the draw circle since entering high school. She picked up 64 draw control wins last season — the sixth-best mark in the county — and increased that total by 25 this spring to finish third among league players.

“There are times this season where we would play ‘make-it take-it’ because of Lindsay’s dominance on draws,” coach Brian Reese said. “On top of that, she was a huge threat offensively as a dodger and cutter.”

A year after leading all county freshmen with 42 points, Marshall was Glenelg Country’s No. 2 scorer in 2018 with 37 goals and six assists.

“She has great stickwork and was a huge contributor to our offense,” Reese said.

Claudia Pilcher, Centennial, senior. Pilcher weaved and dodged between defenders. She finished scoring chances on free positions, in the open field and in traffic. She gave Centennial a substantial advance with her draw control success.

All of these compliments came from Centennial coach Bethany Cunha, who raved about her senior midfielder. Pilcher, a two-time first-team All-County selection, led the Eagles in nearly every statistical category, including goals (50), assists (16), points (66), caused turnovers (17) and interceptions (six). Her 103 draw control wins were the most in the county.

Pilcher, who will play at Colgate next season, finished her career with 108 goals, 36 assists, 244 draw controls, 183 ground balls and 39 caused turnovers.

Hayleigh Simpson, Marriotts Ridge, senior. Simpson, a Drexel commit, has an “all-in” attitude and style of play that coaches dream of, coach Amanda Brady said, and that tenacity shined through this spring as Simpson earned first-team All-County honors for the second straight season.

Simpson dodged, weaved and powered her way to scoring 59 goals, the second-highest total in the county and nearly double last year’s offensive production. She scored at least twice in every game — including six conversions in a win over eventual 4A state champion South River — and compiled hat tricks in 75 percent of the Mustangs’ games. Combine that with 57 draw controls, 24 ground balls and nine turnovers, and you get a player Brady called “a powerful presence all over the field.”

“No one wants to play matched up against her and everyone wants her to be on their team,” Brady said.

Defense

Emily Nalls, Glenelg, junior. Emily served as a defender and midfielder and dominated in both roles. When the ball was in Glenelg’s defensive third, she routinely used her physicality and technique to pry the ball away from opposing attackers. Her 26 caused turnovers led the county by a wide margin.

And once Nalls controlled possession, her strength and agility allowed her to weave down the field and transition the Gladiators into their offensive sets. She even scored 19 goals, a testament to her versatility.

“Emily is just a beast,” coach Nicole Trunzo said. “She is such a great athlete overall. Her lacrosse IQ is amazing. Emily creates turnovers and has the ability to win 50/50s all the time. She is coachable and so strong all around. We’re really happy we have her for one more year.”

Shay Clevenger, Marriotts Ridge, senior. As a first-team All-County selection last year and Marriotts Ridge’s lone returning defender entering this season, Clevenger held the responsibility of formulating another powerful unit while being tasked with guarding the opponent’s top attacker.

Clevenger flourished in both roles. Individually, she won the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award and was one of two county players — Glenelg’s Anna Callahan was the other — to be named an Under Armour All-American. Clevenger, a Louisville commit, also caused a team-high 14 turnovers and picked up 20 ground balls.

Meanwhile, Clevenger headlined a backline that limited opponents to fewer than eight goals per contest.

“Her vision and ability to read the offense is top notch,” Mustangs coach Amanda Brady said. “Shay is known for knocking down feeds/passes and making big plays. Her risky play allows us to reap the benefits in the transition. While we relied on her to lead the defense, she also had great insight for our offense and was able to challenge them making them work hard day in and day out.”

Goalie

Maddie McSally, Glenelg, senior. McSally has thrived since earning the starting goalkeeper job as a sophomore. She earned first-team All-County honors that season, then received the distinction again as a junior.

Little changed this spring. Coaches and teammates relied on McSally for senior leadership, ample communication with her defenders and, of course, plenty of saves, and she checked all of those boxes. She allowed just 70 goals while making 82 stops and headlined a unit that allowed about five goals per contest.

“Having Maddie in the back was so wonderful,” coach Nicole Trunzo said. “Maddie is so skilled at being a goalkeeper, and her attitude is just as wonderful whether it is off the field, practice, or a competitive game. We are really going to miss Maddie.”

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