In a showdown between two of the nation’s best high school girls lacrosse teams — at least according to US Lacrosse Magazine — Glenelg fell just short of defeating St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.) on its home field Tuesday afternoon.

The Gladiators received a hat trick from midfielder Anna Callahan and two goals from attacker Georgia Esmond, but neither senior could net the equalizer after their team went down, 9-8, with 7 minutes, 55 seconds to play. The Saints stymied all of their scoring chances in the final moments, both in the run of play and on free position opportunities, to secure the one-goal triumph.

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For Glenelg, it marks the second loss to a nationally ranked foe in three games to start the season.

“We responded a lot better than our opening day game against Notre Dame Prep,” Glenelg coach Alex Pagnotta said. “Our girls came out and played toe-to-toe with a good team to show we belong at that level.”

Notre Dame Prep jumped out to a 4-1 lead in that contest March 27, and, despite losing the draw control battle, never let Glenelg come closer than that in the 11-6 triumph.

The game started similarly Tuesday, as the Saints got out to leads of 3-1 early on and 7-3 late in the first half. But in each instance, Glenelg responded. The Gladiators erased the initial deficit thanks to Callahan, who scored back-to-back goals within six minutes of each other, the second of which prompted the senior captain to bounce up and down and blurt out an emphatic “yeah, let’s go” to her teammates.

The Saints answered with four unanswered goals, only to see Glenelg close the gap before intermission. In the final minute, junior Sarah Cipolla notched a goal and Glenelg goalkeeper Maddie McSally made one of her five saves. She then transitioned the ball downfield, where senior Maddy O’Brien converted a free-position shot with eight seconds left before halftime.

“They have not seen pressure like Glenelg,” Saints coach Kathy Jenkins said about her team’s attack playing against that defense. “The doubles that were sent, and the slides came really fast, they haven’t seen that on any team they’ve played.”

Ultimately, Jenkins said the game came down to defense. The teams traded goals throughout the second half, which resulted in an 8-8 deadlock with 12:16 to play, but the Saints managed to break through for the go-ahead goal with about eight minutes remaining. And this time, for the first time all afternoon, Glenelg (1-2) failed to counter.

There were quality chances, such as when Callahan earned two free position opportunities with the her team down by a goal. In these moments, she’s one of the players the Gladiators coaches want with the ball. Her offensive showing Tuesday only confirmed that.

Yet in these situations, Glenelg came away without a score. Callahan’s shot went right into the stick of the goalkeeper on her first attempt, and she did not even attempt a shot on the latter occasion. She tried to elude several players, but the swarm of defenders resulted in a loss of possession and allowed the Saints to run out the clock.

“The flow was good, the passing and catching was good,” Pagnotta said. “We just didn’t finish as many shots as we need to finish. And I think that’s just going to come with more and more reps.”

Another issue came in the face-off circle, where the Saints held a 15-3 draw control advantage and thus earned more offensive possessions, putting added pressure on the Gladiators defense.

This was not a problem against Notre Dame Prep, when they won 13 of the 19 draws, but nevertheless coach Nicole Trunzo said added repetitions at practice will help to improve her players’ ability to come out with the ball in these positions.

“They had a little more confidence,” Trunzo said. “Girls who didn’t get a lot of reps last year were stepping up to the ball, winning 50-50s. We just had the opportunities and didn’t finish.”

St. Stephen's & St. Agnes — 9, Glenelg (1-2) — 8

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Goals: G — Anna Callahan 3, Georgia Esmond 2, Sarah Cipolla, Mallory Jubb, Maddy O’Brien.

Saves: G — Maddie McSally 5.

Halftime: 7-5, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes

Around the league

Marriotts Ridge (3-0) — 18, Kent Island — 8

Catonsville — 12, Howard (2-2) — 9

Wilde Lake at Century — postponed (make-up date TBD)

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