St. Paul’s rolls McDonogh in second half to win first IAAM A lacrosse crown since 2006; McElwee scores four goals (VIDEO HERE!)


2021 IAAM A CONFERENCE LACROSSE CHAMPIONS

ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL GATORS


by Derek Toney

Leah Warehime sat on Gerstell Academy’s turf, crying in pain after injuring her shoulder in the 2019 IAAM A Conference lacrosse championship game. Several feet away, McDonogh School celebrated a double overtime victory.

As the final seconds elapsed in Saturday’s IAAM A title game, there was Warehime, jumping up and down. Her teammates swallowed her up in a long-awaited celebration.

Finally, St. Paul’s are IAAM A champions. The Gators claimed the crown with a decisive 17-8 victory over McDonogh at Tierney Field in Sparks.

Senior attack Caitlin McElwee finished with four goals for St. Paul’s (15-1 overall) and Kendall Steer and Christine Gagnon each added a hat trick and two assists. Kori Edmondson had a game-best five goals for McDonogh.

“We’ve wanted for so long, and it was really important not focus on this season, just think about two years ago,” said Warehime.

Warehime nearly willed to St. Paul’s to the 2019 crown with an epic performance between the pipes before Izzy Marsh’s “golden goal” gave McDonogh victory in the second overtime.

Warehime wasn’t Wonder Woman-esque Saturday (nine saves), but her “league” of Gator teammates answered the call, dissecting McDonogh over the final 16 minutes to vanished the memory of 2019.

Seven players scored Saturday, including three from senior midfielder Josie Hahn. Junior Madison Beale was solid on the draws in the second half. Kendall Steer more than held her own on draw possessions against Edmondson, who willed her team back into the game after an early Gators on-slaught.

“We’re a very complete team and we relied on everyone…this is how we’ve been all year,” said Mary Gagnon. “When we need a big goal, we get the goal. We need a big stop, Leah is there. We need another goal, we get another goal.”

After putting up the first 10 goals in a 15-9 victory over McDonogh in Owings Mills last month, St. Paul’s turned a tight game in the second half into a resounding knockout against the defending champ Eagles (13-3), scoring 10 of the final 11 goals Saturday.

The proverbial tide turned with the game tied at 7 in the second half. McDonogh received a yellow card with 16:37 remaining, putting St. Paul’s in a man-advantage.

Seventeen seconds later, Esprit Cha finished a pass from Lauren Steer. The Gators put another shot on goal, but McDonogh goalie Marin Wilhelm made the stop.

Wilhelm stepped out of bounds behind the goal, trying to set up a clear. St. Paul’s quickly got the ball back in play and Lauren Steer fired a shot into an empty net, extending the lead to 9-7 with 15:09 to play.

McDonogh drew another yellow card seconds later (14:46), and the Gators pounced. Natalie Shurtleff found Hahn for a strike, and Christina Gagnon converted on a free position.

“We try not to think about the refs, if the calls come, they come,” said Kendall Steer, a junior. “Once we got on a run, there was no stopping us.”

“It definitely was a momentum change for the game,” McDonogh coach Taylor Cummings said.

Edmondson put the Eagles within 11-8 with a free position goal. The Gators methodically put away McDonogh with their quick passing on offense.

St. Paul’s scored the final six goals, four assisted. The Gators’ start was also impressive.

Kendall Steer scored twice as St. Paul’s led 5-1 inside the first 12 minutes. Edmondson, the nation’s top player in the Class of 2022 by Inside Lacrosse, took over, posting a natural hat trick as McDonogh pulled even at 6 by halftime.

The Gators, who rallied from a five-goal deficit in the second half to beat Glenelg Country School in the semifinals Tuesday, weren’t concerned.

“We knew it was going to be a battle because we respect them (McDonogh),” said Mary Gagnon. “They’re a great team, but this team has battled all year long.”

“We weren’t playing to our best ability at that point in the game,” said Christina Gagnon. “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?’”

Kendall Steer (left), Leah Warehime and Christina Gagnon helped St. Paul’s claimed its first IAAM A Conference lacrosse crown Saturday. The Gators defeated defending champ McDonogh at the USA Lacrosse Complex in Sparks.

St. Paul’s rose to the challenge, becoming the first IAAM A team to beat McDonogh twice in a season since John Carroll School in 2008. Saturday was just the fourth loss in the last 238 decisions (since 2009) for the Eagles, who had won 11 of the previous 12 IAAM A championships.

“The score doesn’t reflect how we played,” said Cummings. “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.”

It was a performance for the ages by the Brooklandville school, which claimed its first IAAM A championship since 2006.

“I kept saying 2021 we’re going to put that [banner] up there,” said Mary Gagnon. “Since losing in 2019, we wanted the opportunity to get back here.”

“This year we really wanted to focus on playing for the Class of 2020 since they didn’t get the chance to,” said Warehime, who will play for Georgetown University next spring. “I think we did a really great job.”

IAAM A CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

AT TIERNEY FIELD, USA LACROSSE COMPLEX

ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL 17, MCDONOGH SCHOOL 8

Goals: McDonogh – Cori Edmondson 5, Lillie Bea Cope, Gabby Stapleton, Dakota Uy; St. Paul’s – Caitlyn McElwee 4, Christina Gagnon 3, Josie Hahn 3, Kendall Steer 3, Espirit Cha 2, Lauren Steer, Frannie Hahn

Assists: McDonogh – Bailey Desmit; S – Cha 2, Gagnon 2, Natalie Shurtleff 2, Lauren Steer 2, McElwee, Olivia Rose

Saves: McDonogh – Marin Wilhelm 6; St. Paul’s – Leah Warehime 9

McDonogh 6 2 – 8

St. Paul’s 6 11 – 17