St. Paul’s needed a big finish last season to earn a second straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship and claim the No. 1 ranking for the second year in a row. Late in the season, Glenelg Country School knocked off the Gators to earn the first No. 1 ranking in its program history, but the Gators avenged their only loss in the title game.
The win also secured the consensus No. 1 national ranking for St. Paul’s, which opens this season ranked No. 1 in the Inside Lacrosse Women national Top 25 but No. 2 in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Top 25.
The Gators likely will face several challenges for the top spot as McDonogh has reloaded while Archbishop Spalding and Bryn Mawr return strong contingents.
The IAAM B and C Conference championships are up for grabs after last year’s B Conference champion Mercy moved up to the A Conference and C Conference champ Indian Creek moved up to the B.
In the public school ranks, 2022 state champions Broadneck in Class 4A, Marriotts Ridge in Class 3A and Liberty in Class 1A have strong chances to repeat.
Defending Class 2A champion Century, last season’s only undefeated team, graduated a huge senior class, lost top player Jasmine Stanton to an injury and will have to completely rebuild.
Here’s a look the early favorites and the likely contenders in the 2023 Baltimore Banner/Varsity Sports Network Preseason Girls Lacrosse Top 15:
2023 Baltimore Banner/VSN Preseason Girls Lacrosse Top 15
1. ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL
2022 record: 17-1
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 1
Coach: Mary Gagnon
Players to watch: Natalie Shurtleff, Sr., midfielder; Frannie Hahn, Sr, attacker; Anna Reagan, Sr., midfielder; Lauren Steer, Sr., attacker
Off the draw: The two-time defending IAAM A Conference champions and last year’s consensus national No. 1, the Gators return plenty of talent to hold the top spot in the country’s toughest league. Four-year starters Shurtleff, Hahn and Steer return 139 goals and 100 assists while Reagan is one of the area’s best on the draw. Although the defense is young, junior goalie Susan Radebaugh and junior Kira Balis give the Gators a solid foundation.
2022 record: 15-3
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 3
Coach: Taylor Cummings
Players to watch: Remi Schaller, Jr., midfielder; Amanda Lawson, Jr., midfielder; Makena London, Sr., attacker
Off the draw: After 14 players graduated from the team that fell to St. Paul’s 13-9 in the IAAM A Conference semifinals, the Eagles have reloaded with stellar young talent, including seven freshmen. Only five starters return with seniors Codi Johnson and Natalie Little providing experience on the defensive end. The youngsters are skilled, speedy, coachable and eager to make their mark on the area’s most storied program.
3. ARCHBISHOP SPALDING
2022 record: 12-4
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 7
Coach: Tara Shea
Players to watch: Maeve Cavanaugh, Soph., midfielder; Colleen Berardino, Sr., goalie; Gabby Greene, Jr., midfielder
Off the draw: The Cavaliers bring back nine starters who should help them advance past their 2022 IAAM A Conference quarterfinal finish. With experience and speed at every position, they’ve already developed critical team chemistry. They also return a trio of midfielders who excel on the defensive end — senior Ally Keith and juniors Clare McGuire and Maddie Wrenn — along with Berardino, one of the conference’s top goalkeepers.
4. BRYN MAWR
2022 record: 14-5
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 5
Coach: Molly Wolf
Players to watch: JJ Suriano, Sr., goalie; Lexi Reber, Jr., defender; Reese Woodworth, Sr., midfielder
Off the draw: The Mawrtians reached the IAAM A Conference semifinals last season and, with 10 starters back, they have their sights set on challenging for the top spot. Suriano, one of the top goalies in the country, will anchor a defense that returns intact. Reber is one of the nation’s top junior defenders, so the Mawrtians could be very tough to score on as they work on generating more offense.
5. MARRIOTTS RIDGE
2022 record: 15-4
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 8
Coach: Amanda Brady
Players to watch: Maisy Clevenger, Sr., midfielder; Sofia Bender, Sr., attacker; Annika Huelskamp, Sr., attacker
Off the draw: The Mustangs bring back a wealth of talent and experience from the team that slipped past Severna Park 11-10, to repeat as Class 3A state champions. Clevenger, Bender and senior Sophia Baxter lead a speedy, poised midfield contingent and much of the Mustangs’ scoring returns. They graduated a couple of defensive starters but return senior Hope Hettinger and add a promising sophomore goalie in Sydney Proper.
6. SEVERNA PARK
2022 record: 17-3
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 9
Coach: Annie Houghton
Players to Watch: Alyssa Gore-Chung, Jr., attacker; Charlotte Diez, Sr., attacker; Maddy Goger, Sr., midfielder
Off the draw: New coach Houghton takes over the defending Anne Arundel County champions who return only six starters but have experience and depth across the field. Gore-Chung and Diez present a formidable attacking duo with 73 goals between them as the Falcons reached the Class 3A state final last year. On defense, senior Ada Mutch takes over in the goal with a solid unit in front of her led by seniors Lily Spilker and Olivia Tramontana.
2022 record: 17-3
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 10
Coach: Katy Kelley
Players to Watch: Lexi Dupcak, Sr., midfielder; Lilly Kelley, Sr., midfielder; Mary Moore, Sr., midfielder
Off the draw: The two-time defending Class 4A state champs bring back a strong starting contingent, especially in the midfield. Dupcak is also a force on the draw with help from Kelley and Moore on the circle. While the midfield sets the tone and the offense looks strong, the Bruins will try to bolster their defense for a schedule that includes at least two other defending state champions in the first three weeks.
8. GLENELG COUNTRY SCHOOL
2022 record: 17-2
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 2
Coach: Paige Walton
Players to watch: Regan Byrne, Sr., attacker; Blair Byrne, Sr., midfield; Natalie Eastwood, Jr. goalie
Off the draw: The Dragons were the only team to beat St. Paul’s last season, but the Gators avenged that in the IAAM A Conference championship. With just four starters back, the Dragons have a lot of goals to replace but should get more scoring from the Byrne twins, who combined for 64 goals last season. They lost three starters on defense but return senior Ashley Dyer and have players to step in, including first-time starting goalie Eastwood.
9. MARYVALE PREP
2022 record: 12-6
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 11
Coach: Brian Reese
Players to watch: Noel Cumberland, Sr., midfielder; Sam Paradise, Sr., midfielder; Kendall Barnes, Sr., attacker
Off the draw: The Lions, who fell to McDonogh in the IAAM A Conference quarterfinals last season, bring back a strong defensive core led by senior Kayla Wehberg and backed by veteran keeper Abby Francioli, one of the conference’s best. Seven starters return overall and with some talented youngsters mixing in, especially on attack, the Lions just need a little time to mesh.
10. NOTRE DAME PREP
2022 record: 10-9
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 12
Coach: Mac Ford
Players to watch: Emme Martin, Jr., goalie; Sarah Goodison, Sr., attacker
Off the draw: The Blazers finished seventh in the IAAM A Conference last season but lost four games by one goal and dropped only one by more than four. They graduated seven starters and will be young but talented. Returning Martin, one the conference’s top goalies, will help as the defense rebuilds. The attack aims to be more efficient after scoring just 12 more goals than the defense allowed in the conference last season.
2022 record: 15-1
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 6
Coach: Alex Pagnotta
Players to watch: Isa Torres, Sr., midfield; Lauren LaPointe, Sr., attacker; Kamryn Henson, Jr., midfielder
Off the draw: The defending Howard County champions, who lost only to Century in the regional final last spring, graduated 13 players, including goalie Jocelyn Torres, now starting at Virginia Tech. Still, the Gladiators have a talented young group that should mesh quickly. They’ll be tested early against a schedule that includes Broadneck, Severna Park and Notre Dame Prep in the first 15 days.
12. MANCHESTER VALLEY
2022 record: 13-2
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 13
Coach: Shelly Brezicki
Players to watch: Emma Penczek, Soph., midfielder; Casey Meredith, Sr., midfielder; Aubrey Chopper, Sr., defender
Off the draw: The Mavericks return eight starters and their top four scorers, including Penczek with 66 goals last season. She and the rest of an experienced midfield will generate a lot of scoring opportunities. Rebuilding their defense will be the key to their success in Carroll County and in the Class 2A West regional where they have to contend with defending state and county champ Century as well as Glenelg, which ended their season in a 10-8 regional semifinal.
2022 record: 14-2
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 15
Coach: Kelly Swift
Players to watch: Lindsey Moneymaker, Jr., midfielder; Maya Antonakas, Jr., midfielder
Off the draw: The four-time defending Baltimore County champions bring back 10 starters from their Class 2A state semifinalist team. Only three seniors graduated, so the Bulls will have experience and depth across the field. They return leading scorer Moneymaker and senior goalie MK McGonigle, but they have some adjustments to make on the draw.
14 . LIBERTY
2022 record: 12-7
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 16
Coach: Thomas Brandel
Players to watch: Riley Matthiesen, Sr., attacker; Jenna Evans, Sr., midfielder; Ally Pond, Sr., attacker
Off the draw: The Lions graduated just two players from the team that won a second straight Class 1A state title. Experience and depth return across the field along with plenty of firepower. Matthiesen, Evans and Pond combined for 116 goals and 67 assists last spring. Senior twins Julia and Izzy Lucas anchor the defensive unit in front of two veteran goalies.
15. C. MILTON WRIGHT
2022 record: 11-5
Final VSN 2022 ranking: 14
Coach: Faye Brust
Players to watch: Katie Roszko, Sr., midfielder; Shelby Sullivan, Jr., attacker; Cailin Hetrick, Sr., midfielder
Off the draw: The Mustangs rolled through the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference last year, winning every game by at least eight goals. Nine starters bring back a lot of strength and skill on attack, but they need new players to step up on the draw. The Mustangs also return a few veteran defenders to front a pair of promising young goalies.