St. Paul’s junior Kendall Steer knew her team was capable of overcoming nearly any obstacle. The Gators came back from a five-goal deficit to win their semifinal game against Glenelg Country, and erased a seven-goal deficit against Notre Dame Prep in their only regular-season loss.
So when she saw her team give up an early four-goal lead against defending champion McDonogh in Saturday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final, she said there was no panic.
“I know this team doesn’t give up, and when all of us are in it together. … We can come back from anything,” Steer said.
Tied at 7 early in the second half, St. Paul’s, the No. 6 team in the Nike/USA Lacrosse High School Girls National Top 25, turned on the jets, taking advantage of power-play opportunities after a pair of yellow cards to score 10 of the final 11 goals in a 17-8 win over the national No. 11 Eagles at USA Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks.
St. Paul’s (15-1), which in 2019 took McDonogh to double overtime before falling, 5-4, in the finals, captured its first championship since 2006.
“We got so close my sophomore year,” said senior Christina Gagnon, who missed the 2019 game with a torn ACL. “I was hurt, so I wanted it even more. I had to just watch them win the championship last time.”
Gagnon said her team, embroiled in a tight game at halftime, needed to take a hard look in the mirror.
“We weren’t playing to our best ability at that point in the game,” she said. “We slowed down on D, we slowed down on attack and we had a few turnovers that were uncharacteristic. I think it took a little reset, it took halftime, to just say, ‘Do we really want this?’”
Gagnon (three goals) was one of five players with multiple goals for the Gators, led by senior Caitlyn McElwee with four. Steer and senior Josie Hahn also scored three each.
Junior Kori Edmondson led all scorers with five goals for McDonogh (14-3), which lost last month to St. Paul’s, 16-9, after allowing the game’s first 10 goals. It was the Eagles’ first regular-season defeat since 2009, and their first league loss since 2008.
This time, McDonogh rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game, and seemed to have momentum before yellow cards on Caroline Godine and Gabby Stapleton changed the complexion of the game, leading to four straight power-play goals in the span of three minutes.
“We’re just going to the goal hard. We’re just playing hard,” Gators coach Mary Gagnon said. “The thing is, I don’t think they can key on one player. We got up a little bit, and they started getting a little frustrated. They had to come out after us.”
“I think those yellow cards… to give them man-up opportunities against a really good offense is difficult. It definitely was a momentum change for the game,” McDonogh coach Taylor Cummings said. “The score doesn’t reflect how we played. I don’t think one game defines [us]. St. Paul’s played a great game, and they should be really proud of themselves for putting on quite a show.”
Despite losing each of the first four draws, St. Paul’s dominated this one early running out to a 5-1 lead after the first 12 minutes, with Gators goalie Leah Warehime making a pair of saves on point-blank free-position shots.
With McDonogh continuing to win draws, however, it wasn’t long before the Eagles mounted a comeback. Edmondson scored three straight goals over a span of five minutes to tie the game at 5, and the teams went into halftime knotted at 6.
“We were able to get man-up on some of those yellows and score, but once we got on a run, there was no stopping us as a team,” Steer said.
St. Paul’s 17, McDonogh 8
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Goals: M-Edmondson 5, Stapleton, Cope, Uy; S- McElwee 4, K. Steer 3, Gagnon 3, J. Hahn 3, Cha 2, L. Steer, F. Hahn. Assists: M-Desmit; S- Steer 2, Shurtleff 2, Gagnon 2, Cha, McElwee, Rose. Saves: M- Wilhelm ; S- Warehime 9. Half: Tied, 6-6.