During a 2 hour, 19 minute weather delay Saturday, players on the St. Paul’s girls lacrosse team did whatever they could to keep their edge.
Escaping the prolific lightning show outside, the Gators huddled in their locker room at USA Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, playing energetic music, dancing to the beat and, most of all, trying to figure out ways to slow Darien (Connecticut) senior Chloe Humphrey, the consensus No. 1 player in the country.
On this day, the latter came a little too late.
In a game that was tied 10 times, Humphrey, a senior bound for the University of North Carolina, scored a game-high seven goals, helping the Blue Wave — the No. 1 team in the Nike/USA Lacrosse National Girls’ Top 25 — stay a step ahead, with a late rally by national No. 3 St. Paul’s falling just short in a 13-12 loss.
“You can pretend to have Chloe Humphrey at practice, but it’s not the same until you actually play against her,” Gators coach Mary Gagnon said. “You can’t really leave her one-v-one. You have a couple choices — you can faceguard her or you can send an early slide. We’re not a big face-guarding team. I thought we did a better job in the second half. The first half, we were a little bit late doing that. I wish we would’ve [done that] a little bit sooner, but I think they had to get used to her.”
Still, St. Paul’s (11-2) had every opportunity to win, getting three goals each from seniors Lauren Steer and Natalie Shurtleff and two each from sophomores Marleigh O’Day and Caroline Hoskins. The Gators took an 11-10 lead with 9:47 left on a solo effort from senior Frannie Hahn.
Darien (6-0) retook the lead when two goals in 49 seconds on feeds from Humphrey and senior Ryan Hapgood in front. Trailing by two after another Darien goal by Anna Von Kennel, St. Paul’s got within one on Shurtleff’s solo effort with 1:25 left.
The Gators, however, couldn’t pull even despite several late chances, including a pair of forced turnovers and a last-second shot by Hoskins that bounded off the outstretched leg of junior goalie Hope Schoudel.
“After we had those two turnovers, I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh god, we had this game locked in and we just gave it away,’” Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. “But they had a great stand on defense that last series and Hope came up with a huge save.”
“We were trying to sort of clear and get dives and dodges, and I just think they picked up on that,” Steer said. “It didn’t work out in the end, but I think, the team as a whole, we fought and we’ll come back from this.”
St. Paul’s had trouble figuring out the Blue Wave’s high-pressure defense all afternoon, time and again struggling to clear the ball and committing more turnovers than usual.
“They definitely press out, and they’re a heavy pressure team, which is always difficult. I know I’ll have a lot of bruises tonight,” Shurtleff said. “It’s definitely something that we don’t see that much, but it was good to have that. I think it will really help us to grow as a team.”
After last week’s 10-9 loss to McDonogh, St. Paul’s has just five games left in the regular season. After that, the Gators will enter the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference playoffs looking to win their third straight title.
Despite the loss, players believe Saturday’s game will have a positive impact for them in the final weeks of the season.
“It was a very mental game,” Steer said. “We had a two-hour break, everything was ‘on’ the entire time … it was very mentally draining. I think this is important for down the stretch in the playoffs and just farther down in the season.”
Gagnon was even more optimistic about the effort.
“I think this was the best game we’ve played this season yet,” Gagnon said. “We’ve played well, but we really hadn’t played consistently well on both ends of the field. It’s all about peaking at the right time. I thought we played well enough to win today, I really did.”
Darien (Conn.) 13, St. Paul’s 12
Goals: D — Humphrey 7, Quinn 3, Hapgood 2, Von Kennel; SP — Steer 3, Shurtleff 3, O’Day 2, Hoskins 2, Hahn, Porter. Assists: D — Humphrey 2, Kennedy; SP — Regan, Steer Shurtleff. Saves: D — Schoudel 5, SP-Radebaugh 8 Half: Darien, 7-6.