Christina Gagnon, Paris Colgain and Mary Gagnon sweep the honors for St. Paul’s School for Girls, the nation’s No. 1 team


There is no shortage of girls high school lacrosse talent in the state of Maryland.

In any county where you may search there are top notch coaches and multiple schools placing players in top tier Division I programs. Despite the loss of the 2020 season and the great uncertainty surrounding this spring’s campaign, the area’s level of talent and competition was at an all time high in 2021.

Standing out in such a talent rich environment is no easy task, but St. Paul’s School for Girls overshadowed everyone, winning its first IAAM A Conference championship in 15 years and finishing as the nation’s top-ranked team.

For their part, three Gators have earned VSN’s highest honors for 2021, with Christian Gagnon being named our Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, Paris Colgain earning the title of Girls Lacrosse Defensive Player of the Year and Mary Gagnon taking the title of Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

Here are there stories:


2021 VSN GIRLS LACROSSE
PLAYER OF THE YEAR

CHRISTINA GAGNON
ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

by Nelson Coffin

Christina Gagnon and her St. Paul’s School for Girls teammates came to play in 2021.

After missing the 2019 season with an injured ACL and then having her junior campaign wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, the talented midfielder and her cohorts figured they were on the verge of doing something special this spring.

It all began in January when the Gators copped the 16-team Inside Lacrosse Women’s Indoor National Championships high school division title with a 16-15 verdict over Long Island’s Bayport-Blue Point High School.

That win just whetted the appetite of Gagnon and the Gators, who came ever so close to claiming their first Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown since 2006 when they dropped a 5-4 decision to McDonogh in the 2019 finale with the University of Southern California signee still on the sideline.

St. Paul’s was determined not to miss another golden opportunity, and Gagnon said that she felt confident about the team’s chances to go all the way.

“We all had such a crazy passion for the game,” she said. “And we had tasted what it was like (to win a championship in the indoor tournament).”

The Gators came out of the chute quickly, rattling off 11 straight wins against league foes by an impressive average of 9.45 goals per game until falling to Notre Dame Prep, 10-9.

In two of the most significant victories during that torrid streak, Gagnon, VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, was on fire.

In a crucial week when the Gators had road games at Glenelg Country School and McDonogh, she embraced the moment.

Against the Dragons, St. Paul’s fell behind, 3-0, before bringing the hammer down over the final 35 minutes to win going away, 17-6.

With Gagnon, fellow senior Josie Hahn and junior defender Madison Beale winning draw after draw — and 17-of-24 for the game — to spark a pivotal 6-0 run, the Gators cruised to the win.

In addition to her work in and around the draw circle, Gagnon was also part of a defensive effort that put the clamps on GCS’s usually potent offense.

Two days later, Gagnon played what may have been her best game of the season in a stunning 16-9 victory over previously unbeaten McDonogh that really wasn’t that close after the Gators scored the game’s first 10 goals.

The loss was the first in the regular season for the Eagles to a conference opponent since 2008, and Gagnon was in the forefront of the action.

She netted four of her game-high five goals as St. Paul’s built an 11-1 halftime advantage — and she was just as brilliant in helping control 9-of-13 draws during that span.

“That was my most consistent and well-rounded game,” said Gagnon, who also had three assists in the contest.

She passed her next most important test in a conference semifinal thriller when the Gators overcame an 8-3 deficit with 18 minutes remaining in regulation to oust Glenelg Country, 10-9.

When the 5-foot-8 star midfielder was needed the most, she came through.

She also praised teammate Kendall Steer for her heroics in the comeback.

“We piggybacked off of her,” Gagnon said. “She really pulled us back into shape. Obviously, it wasn’t my best game and we were all shaky at moments.”

Still, Gagnon corralled three of the game’s last four — and 11 overall — draws, forced a key turnover on the defensive end and buried a free-position shot with just over two minutes remaining to notch the winning goal.

When she lined up at the 8-meter mark with the outcome on the line, Gagnon was mindful of the previous try that GCS goalie Stephane Marszal gobbled up.

“I was nervous,” Christina Gagnon said. “Josie (Hahn) said to me, ‘You’ve got this.’ I went in and shot it high.”

With a berth in the championship game secured, the Gators were confident heading into another showdown with McDonogh for the title.

Gagnon scored the first goal of the second half to snap a tie and the Gators rolled to a 17-8 triumph to finally hoist the trophy that had eluded them for so long.

She finished with three goals and two assists to give her 34 goals and 26 assists for the season for the 15-1 Gators.

“That was my favorite moment,” Gagnon said. “Just to be able to celebrate with my teammates. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

The Gators had one more mountain to climb in the National High School Lacrosse Showcase, and they did so by topping ABC (Archbishop Carroll), 14-7, to solidify their hold on the Nike/USA Lacrosse High School Girls National Top 25 rankings.

Gagnon scored a game-high four goals and added an assist in helping to down the 20-time defending Philadelphia Catholic League champs.

Her mother, Mary Gagnon, VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year, said that Christina’s intensity and passion is respected by her peers.

“She’s a very physical player and not afraid to make mistakes,” she said. “She works hard and she plays hard. She does whatever it takes.”

VSN’s Girls Lacrosse Defender of the Year, Paris Colgain, who often covers Christina Gagnon in practice, said that her SPSG teammate has the skill-set to be a constant threat with the ball in her stick.

“When you guard her, you have to move your feet well,” the Johns Hopkins commit said. “Because you know as a defender that she has all the confidence and skill to go to goal. She’s very physical and uses both hands very well.”

PREVIOUS VSN
GIRLS LACROSSE
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2020 – No Season
2019 – Blair Pearre, McDonogh School
2018 – Hannah Mardiney, Notre Dame Prep
2017 – Maddie Jenner – McDonogh
2016 – Lizzie Colson – Manchester Valley
2015 – Olivia Jenner – McDonogh
2014 – Megan Whittle, McDonogh
2013 – Zoe Stukenberg, Marriotts Ridge & Megan Whittle, McDonogh
2012 – Taylor Cummings – McDonogh
2011 – Taylor Cummings – McDonogh


2021 VSN GIRLS LACROSSE
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

PARIS COLGAIN
ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

by Nelson Coffin

While taking pleasure in the lone goal she scored this season, Paris Colgain’s real value to the St. Paul’s School for Girls lacrosse team came from leading the Gators’ well-structured and talented defensive unit.

The standout senior’s terrific communication skills and quick feet helped the Gators to limit Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference foes to an average of 7.2 goals per game this spring for a team that posted a 15-1 record.

Colgain, a Johns Hopkins commit, and her backline buddies were at their best against defending champion McDonogh, which averaged nearly 13 goals per game against other opponents while never reaching double digits against St. Paul’s in either game this spring.

VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Defensive Player of the Year drew a tough assignment both times against the Eagles when she shadowed North Carolina recruit Caroline Godine, who scored once in the first game and was shut out in the Gators’ 17-9 A Conference championship triumph.

That took some doing against such a skilled player, although Colgain was up to the task.

“Caroline is a really flashy player who will shoot from anywhere,” Colgain said. “She will pull you out to the wing and try to do a split dodge, but I never gave her a lane. I was constantly on her, stick on stick, and always on her hands. I just love playing against good competition.”

St. Paul’s coach Mary Gagnon, VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year, said that she likes the way Colgain patrols the crease area.

“Not many people can play there that well,” she said. “Because you can’t go with fakes and you aren’t always going to get help, so you’re on an island. But Paris is fast and she’s a great leader. She always takes the other team’s top attacker.”

Gagnon’s daughter, senior midfielder Christine Gagnon, had plenty of opportunities to challenge Colgain in practice at St. Paul’s.

“Paris is always on her ‘A’ game,” Christine Gagnon, VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, said. “She’s really aggressive and smart. I’ve got more bruises from her on my arms from her than from anybody in a game. She’s also a leader who shows the younger defenders the ropes.”

Colgain, a starter since she was a freshman at the Brooklandville school, said that after playing some attack as a third grader, defense became her preferred spot.

“I had the size, and I’m aggressive, so I gravitated toward defense,” she said. “It has has worked well for me.”

The 5-foot-8 Colgain and the Gators had much to prove this season — and they did so in resounding fashion by winning their first 11 games and claiming their first A Conference crown since 2006.

Before losing her junior year to the pandemic, the Gators bowed in double overtime to McDonogh in the 2019 A Conference finale, giving them plenty of incentive to go out strong this spring.

“I think that losing those games (SPSG also lost its other game against McDonogh in OT in 2019) left a bad taste in our mouths,” she said. “We knew we had the talent and we knew we could win this year.”

Even so, Colgain and her mates had to dig deep after falling behind Glenelg Country School, 8-3, with just under 19 minutes remaining in regulation during an A Conference semifinal.

With their chances to earn a spot in the championship looking bleak, the Gators knew they would have to play lock-down defense and score some goals the rest of the way in order to prevail.

The defense did its part, holding the Dragons to a single goal and the offense netted seven more scores to pull out the 10-9 verdict.

“That was all of us just kind of believing in ourselves — and in each other,” Colgain said. “We weren’t going to end the season on that note.”

From that point forward, St. Paul’s was on its way to the title and top billing in the Nike/USA Lacrosse High School Girls National Top 25 rankings.

Colgain said that she considered the academics and athletics at Johns Hopkins too good to ignore when it came to choosing a college.

“And it’s close to home,” the Sparks resident said. “Having the competitive academics and athletics is something I’ve always wanted.”

PREVIOUS VSN
GIRLS LACROSSE
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2020 – No Season
2019 – Olivia Malamphy, Archbishop Spalding
2018 – Sarah Cooper, Notre Dame Prep
2017 – Margaret Donovan – McDonogh
2016 – Sarah Dohler – McDonogh
2015 – Caroline Sdanowich – John Carroll
2014 – Tianna Wallpher – Mount Hebron
2013 – Maggie Preas, McDonogh
2012 – Caroline Federico, Maryvale Prep
2011 – Molly Wolf, Bryn Mawr


2021 VSN GIRLS LACROSSE
COACH OF THE YEAR

MARY GAGNON
ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

by Nelson Coffin

It wasn’t always easy being Mary Gagnon in 2019.

Two years before her breakthrough season, she coached her up-and-coming St. Paul’s School for Girls lacrosse team to a respectable 12-8 record that would have been significantly better if not for five overtime setbacks — including a double-OT loss to McDonogh in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship game.

If that’s not enough hardship, Gagnon also had to deal with the loss of arguably the team’s best player to an ACL injury.

That player, Christina Gagnon, is the youngest of her five children, so the pain was even more severe for the team and her family.

Then, with hopes high in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept away what appeared to be a promising season.

And that, in turn, meant that the 2021 edition of the Gators would face even more pressure to at least book a return engagement to the title game or, better yet, win the whole thing for the first time since 2006.

With those expectations facing Gagnon and her troops, she and trusted assistant Melissa Diepold, came through in a big way by having the team prepared to take on — and beat — the best that the always competitive conference had to offer.

Rising to that challenge by winning the A Conference crown and elevating St. Paul’s to the top billing in the Nike/USA Lacrosse High School Girls National Top 25 ranking after a 15-1 season, Mary Gagnon is VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

The honor comes after her fifth year at St. Paul’s and a long career playing for Anne Arundel County powerhouse Severna Park and what is now Loyola University Maryland.

She also coached at Mount de Sales Academy before returning to take over the helm at St. Paul’s after a few years away from the sport.

SPSG athletics director Erin Howland said that Gagnon’s ability to connect with every player is one of her strongest suits.

“She truly cares about the development and personal growth of our Gators,” Howland said. “She is committed and loves to compete. Our Gators thrive under her leadership and clearly learn how to excel as a team in the process.”

Gagnon, who made a rare appearance in the goal when Severna Park ended Loch Raven’s then-record 103-game winning streak in 1982, made sure that the Gators were ready from the get-go this year.

St. Paul’s started its winning ways in January by claiming the 16-team Inside Lacrosse Women’s Indoor National Championships high school division title with a 16-15 verdict over Long Island’s Bayport-Blue Point High School, setting the tone for more successes a couple of months later.

The Gators bolted out of the gate quickly in the IAAM season, reeling off 11 straight wins before Notre Dame Prep knocked them off, 10-9, in late April.

Included in the sizzling streak were scintillating road wins over Glenelg Country School, 17-6, and McDonogh, 16-9.

The Gators fell behind the Dragons, 3-0, before finding their footing.

“Glenelg Country is a very talented team and they’re going to be really strong next year,” Gagnon said. “But once we got that first goal and then started to win draws, our defense settled down. Then our offense got going and they couldn’t key on one player. That’s how I coach — to make us hard to defend.”

The momentum from that game carried over into the showdown with McDonogh in Owings Mills where St. Paul’s scored the game’s first 10 goals to saddle the Eagles with their first loss to a conference foe during the regular season since 2008.

Yet those signature wins were in jeopardy of being forgotten when the Gators fell behind GCS, 8-3, in a playoff semifinal with just under 19 minutes to go in regulation and dreams of a championship berth turning into a nightmare.

As Gagnon’s coaching mettle faced its most crucial test, she calmly called a timeout and looked her players directly in the eye.

The antidote to Glenelg Country coach Brian Reese’s patient offense, she told her players, was to pressure out on the Dragons to force turnovers and then use the ensuing possessions to efficiently chip away at the deficit.

And there was one other part of her speech that hit home.

“I told them that ‘you’re going to win this game, and if you don’t believe me, there are 15 kids behind you who do (believe),’” she said.

Senior Paris Colgain, VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Defensive Player of the Year, took the message to heart as the defense did its part, holding the Dragons to a single goal and the offense netted seven more scores to pull out the 10-9 verdict.

“That was all of us just kind of believing in ourselves — and in each other,” Colgain said. “We weren’t going to end the season on that note.”

Gagnon said the team worked hard to get the ball back and made the most of its opportunities to score.

“We doubled the ball, and then finished when we had to,” she said.

Back in the title game against McDonogh, the Gators never faltered after snapping a halftime tie on a goal by her daughter, a senior midfielder and VSN’s 2021 Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, on the way to a 17-9 victory.

“We really wanted that game,” Mary Gagnon said. “We prepared well and knew we had to execute. We had missed a few free possessions, and felt we should have been ahead at the half. (Junior defender) Madison (Beale) started to win draws and we wore them down in the second half.”

She said that her coaching style hasn’t changed over the years.

“People found out that I care about the kids and didn’t come in with any preconceived ideas,” Gagnon added. “I think that being a mom helps me to understand what they’re going through. The kids are OK if you communicate with them and let you know where they stand.”

Gagnon’s Gators put an exclamation point on their season by clinching the inaugural National High School Lacrosse Showcase championship last month with a 14-7 triumph over ABC (Archbishop Carroll, Pa.).

PREVIOUS VSN
GIRLS LACROSSE
COACHES OF THE YEAR
2020 – No Season
2019 – Taylor Cummings, McDonogh & Brigid Scanlon, South Carroll
2018 – Mac Ford, Notre Dame Prep
2017 – Kristen Barry, Bel Air
2016 – Ginger Kincaid, Glenelg
2014 – Carin Peterson, Severna Park
2013 – Chris Robinson, McDonogh
2012 – Jessica Vitrano-Randisi, Maryvale Prep
2011 – Natalie Galeski, Marriotts Ridge