St. Paul’s girls lacrosse junior Natalie Shurtleff missed the bulk of last month’s game against Glenelg Country after picking up her second yellow card late in the first half. The lopsided loss that day was an especially bitter pill for the attacker, who was forced to watch it play out from the sideline.
On Tuesday, Shurtleff made certain she’ll get one more chance at the No. 1 girls lacrosse team in the nation.
Facing No. 5 McDonogh, Shurtleff racked up six goals and an assist as the host No. 2 Gators built a nine-goal lead early in the second half and held off the Eagles, 13-9, to advance to Friday night’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final at USA Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks.
“I didn’t really get a chance [in a 20-7 loss to Glenelg Country on April 27], but I just want to try again,” Shurtleff said. “I think that if we play like we did today, we’ve got this.”
The defending A Conference champions, ranked No. 3 in the Nike/USA Lacrosse National Girls’ Top 25, dominated for much of the way in a rematch of last year’s conference final, building an 11-2 lead less than two minutes into the second half. And, much like their 17-8 win over McDonogh a month ago, the Gators did it by dominating draws.
Led by junior Anna Regan, St. Paul’s (16-1) won 11 of the game’s first 12 draws and took 17 of 23 overall. And once they got the ball, they pushed it.
“Pushing that fast break against them was really important for us,” Shurtleff said. “I think that’s one thing we learned from last time — if we push that fast break and get it to our low attackers, they can score. Lauren [Steer] and Frannie [Hahn] are such a good duo, and they finish it when they need to.”
Steer (two goals, four assists) and Hahn (three goals, one assist) time and again made McDonogh (16-3) pay at the offensive end. Meanwhile, the Gators more than held their own on defense, despite losing starters Olivia Rose and Grace Schlossberg to season-ending knee injuries late last month.
Paced by the play of freshmen Lily Peek and Caroline Hoskins, as well the move of Regan from midfield to defense, St. Paul’s held the Eagles to one goal over a span of 24:21 from early in the first half to early in the second. Though McDonogh’s Kori Edmondson came alive in the second half to finish with five goals, the deficit was too great.
Now, the task turns to a rematch with No. 1 Glenelg Country, a 17-5 winner over Bryn Mawr in Tuesday’s other semifinal. It will be an especially tough test for the Gators, who were never competitive in last month’s loss to the Dragons.
“We look forward to that challenge,” St. Paul’s coach Mary Gagnon said. “I feel like we’re ready. No excuses the first time — I’m not an excuse maker. But we had some time off, and hopefully rested a little bit. Everybody has injuries, and it’s just how you deal with them. Top teams regroup, and that’s what we did. Now we get to play Glenelg [Country] again, and hopefully give them a good game this time.”
“It’s what I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Shurtleff said. “Especially with the team we have, I feel like it’s such a special group of people. The fact that it’s going to be the last time we play with them, it’s going to be such an important game for us.”
Goals: M-Edmondson 5, A. Vandiver, Godine, Trahan, London; SP-Shurtleff 6, Hahn 3, L. Steer 2, Hoskins, K. Steer. Assists: M-Godine; SP-Steer 4, Shurtleff, Hahn, Hoskins. Saves: M-Wilhelm 6; SP-Radebaugh 3. Half: St. Paul’s, 10-2