First-Time Starter Natalie Shurtleff Earns Mid-Atlantic Player of the Year

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Natalie Shurtleff emerged from the shadows to lead St. Paul’s (Md.) to a repeat of the IAAM Championship.


Natalie Shurtleff emerged from the shadows to lead St. Paul’s (Md.) to a repeat of the IAAM Championship.

The Gators’ junior midfielder, along with everyone else, lost almost the entire 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then she came off the bench behind a deep 2021 class last season. This year, she was thrust into a leading role in her first year starting. A two-way midfielder, she lifted the offense and aided the draw control as St. Paul’s went 17-1 and won the toughest conference in the country again.

“She was in some of their shadows a little bit, but she’s definitely grown up a lot,” St. Paul’s head coach Mary Gagnon said. “You can see it from year to year. I’ve always known she has a lot of talent.”

Shurtleff was inspired to work at her game even harder after 13 seniors graduated from last season. She raised expectations and gained confidence with six goals in the title game at the ILWomen Indoor Lacrosse National Championships in January. Then through the spring season, she further established herself.

“We needed her to step up,” Gagnon said. “I remember before the first McDonogh game, saying to step up and do what she’s doing in practice in the games and in the moment. That’s another thing about a good player — they step up in big games and find the ball and want the ball in their stick, and they involve their teammates and lead out there. She did that.”

It was a steady learning curve for Shurtleff as she adjusted to her role. In the Gators’ lone loss of the year — a whopping 20-7 loss to Glenelg Country — she was disqualified with her second yellow card in the first half.

“I try not to show my intensity that much because I feel like that doesn’t really help anyone,” Shurtleff said. “As a leader, I feel like you have to remain more calm in those situations. If they start seeing you’re nervous and other people start to get nervous and it starts to spread throughout the team. Staying calm is something I learned.”

Over the final weeks of the season, Shurtleff played at an elite level. She scored six goals and had an assist while helping the team win 11 of the first 12 draw controls in a 13-9 win over McDonogh in the IAAM semifinals. In a finals rematch against Glenelg Country, she scored four of the Gators’ first five goals as they jumped out to a 12-3 halftime lead, and she finished with five goals as St. Paul’s repeated as champions with a 15-7 win. The Clemson commit closed her junior season with 62 goals, 20 assists and 54 draw controls to earn the USA Lacrosse Magazine Mid-Atlantic Girls’ Player of the Year honor.

“I’ve never been someone who likes a lot of attention on me,” Shurtleff said. “It was never my thing. I don’t love it. But I knew it was necessary for the team. It was that team-first mentality.”

Shurtleff helped to fill a scoring gap left on offense by the graduation of top midfielders Christina Gagnon (USC) and Caitlin McElwee (James Madison).

“During the offseason, I really focused on being able to improve my dodging and cutting and overall being able to score more,” Shurtleff said. “I also tried to gain more confidence with the ball just knowing there was going to be more pressure on me.”

The result of her offseason work was a big jump. Shurtleff finished 2021 with 21 points on 19 goals and two assists. She nearly quadrupled her production this year. Along with being a force on the draw control with Anna Regan and Kendall Steer, Shurtleff gave the offense a lift as a top scoring threat in big spots. 

“She’s quick,” Gagnon said. “She has a good, quick first step. She also has really good stickwork. She can get through really tight situations. She doesn’t just shoot, she finishes. She’s been a shooter and finisher. She can move the goalie. She has poise in front the cage. She can have power, but she’s also finesse. She can get in tight situations and get underneath players and go right around the keeper and hitch and use her fakes and finish. It’s her stick skills combined with her speed that make her really unique.”







Her improved skills and raised role were critical down the stretch. Madison Beale anchored a rebuilt defense, and Shurtleff was able to aid St. Paul’s fast starts in conference tournament.

“I think it definitely helped that I’d been there before,” Shurtleff said. “Even though it wasn’t the same role that I was in, having that experience being out on that field with that crowd definitely helped me and the rest of our returners.”

Shurtleff insists that there was no extra intention behind her big game against Glenelg Country. It was nothing more than doing her job.

“I think we honestly played as a team,” Shurtleff said. “It could have been anyone who scored those first four goals. It just happened to be me. It was a lot of great feeds from our girls behind, Frannie [Hahn] and Lauren [Steer]. They were amazing.”

Shurtleff’s breakout sets the stage for one final season at St. Paul’s. She is focused on making sure that she improves again in every aspect to help the Gators defend their conference crown while handling the increased pressure and expectations that this year’s success and honors will bring.

“Physically, I’m focusing on getting stronger and faster and working in the offseason trying to get more shots outside and expanding my game and what I’m able to do,” Shurtleff said. “In more of the mental or team aspect, I’m going to try to be more vocal. I’m not a traditionally vocal person and I don’t like to give unsolicited advice. I like to make sure the person is coming to me for it. I just want to be able to be someone who is there for support for anyone who needs it.”

FINAL MID-ATLANTIC TOP 10

1. St. Paul’s (Md.), 17-1

The Gators repeated as IAAM A Conference champions. To do so, they had to knock off the only team to beat them in the regular season, and the Gators took a 15-7 win over Glenelg Country (Md.) in the conference final. Natalie Shurtleff was impressive down the stretch and finished with 62 goals, 20 assists, and 54 draw controls. Madison Beale always drew the top mark, and the four-year starter finished with 25 draw controls and 10 takeaways. Kendall Steer led the team with 55 draw controls and also scored 35 goals. Frannie Hahn finished with 98 points on 40 goals and 48 assists while captaining the offense. Lauren Steer scored 39 goals and added 32 assists for a balanced effort. St. Paul’s graduates just four starters. Previous: 1

2. Glenelg Country (Md.), 17-2

The Dragons were the one team to beat St. Paul’s (Md.) in the ultra competitive IAAM A Conference, and their 20-7 win was a highlight in a history-making season. Glenelg has been climbing since moving up to the A Conference in 2017 after winning back-to-back B Conference titles. This season marked their first trip to the A championship game. Jaclyn Marszal scored 54 goals and had 67 assists to lead the team in points, including a 14-point game against St. Paul’s. Maggie Weisman had 56 goals and 72 draw controls. Regan Byrne scored 52 goals while missing four games. Stephanie Marszal had a 54 percent save rate to lead the defense. Previous: 2

3. McDonogh (Md.), 15-3

The Eagles fell to second-seeded St. Paul’s (Md.) in the conference semifinals to end their season. Kori Edmondson finished the year with 80 goals, 10 assists, 77 draw controls and 10 caused turnovers. Caroline Godine scored 35 goals and led the team with 37 assists. Remi Schaller had 30 goals and 10 assists. Amanda Lawson finished with 48 draws, and Sydney Smith caused 21 turnovers. Previous: 3

4. Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), 24-0

Emma Talago scored four goals, and Cate McConaghy and Machaela Henry scored two goals each as Carroll finished its season unbeaten with a 10-8 win over Twin Valley (Pa.) for the 2A state championship. It’s their second straight state title. Carroll is the first undefeated state champion at any level since Pennsylvania began awarding championships in 2009. The Patriots also won their 21st straight Philadelphia Catholic League crown. The Patriots outscored teams, 396-118, this season. They knocked off strong teams like 3A state champion Conestoga (Pa.), Agnes Irwin (Pa.), Bishop Shanahan (Pa.), Notre Dame (Md.) and Penn Charter (Pa.). Ava Bleckley, Kiley Mottice and Talago were named All-American and Lorraine Beers was Coach of the Year. Previous: 4

5. Bryn Mawr (Md.), 11-4

The Mawrtians fell to Glenelg Country (Md.) in the IAAM A Conference semifinals on May 10 to conclude their season but finished with their best record in a decade. Johns Hopkins commit Hannah Johnson finished a huge year with 109 draw controls and 54 goals. Maryland commit JJ Suriano is just a junior, but the goalie saved 125 shots at a 52 percent clip. Princeton commit Merrill Watson is another junior who will return after corralling more than 30 draw controls to go with 40 goals and 21 assists. Previous: 5

6. Archbishop Spalding (Md.), 13-4

The Cavaliers were the only team to beat Glenelg Country (Md.) in the regular season. Spalding also edged Notre Dame Prep (Md.) and played St. Paul’s (Md.) to a two-goal game. The Cavaliers nearly doubled last year’s win total. Bella Saviano (Yale commit) stood out with 45 goals and the midfielder marked opponents’ top players. Gabby Greene had 52 goals, and Lily Mullen led the team with 29 assists to go with 20 goals. A natural midfielder, Maddie Wrenn moved back to key the defensive end. Meave Cavanaugh finished with 41 goals and 14 assists, Reese Dowgiallo scored 40 goals, and Ally Keith had 51 points on 29 goals and 12 assists. Previous: 6

7. Century (Md.), 19-0

The Knights completed their second unbeaten season in program history. Coach Becky Groves’ Century team topped Hereford (Md.) to win the Class 2A state championship. Lauren Hackett (Salisbury) led the offense with 101 points on 58 goals and 43 assists, Caroline Little (Virginia Tech) had 55 goals and 34 assists, Anna Hackett (Elon) led the team with 78 goals and Jasmine Stanton (Clemson commit) scored 68 goals. Jane Brewer keyed the defense as a shut-down defender. A pair of early wins over defending state champions Broadneck (Md.) and Liberty (Md.) set the tone for the season. They beat Glenelg High (Md.) on their march to their state title. Previous: 7

8. Glenelg High (Md.), 15-1

Glenelg concluded its season with an 8-7 loss to top-seeded Century (Md.) in the Class 2A West Region I final. The Gladiators won their first 15 games of the season. Navy commit Emma Kennedy scored 67 goals to go with 23 assists to pace the offense. Jocelyn Torres, a Virginia Tech commit, made 75 saves while allowing just 3 goals per game. Another Navy commit, Maura Murphy, won 75 percent of draws and had 32 goals and 14 assists. Lauren LaPointe, who will play at Maryland, had 45 goals and 14 assists. Previous: 8

9. Summit (N.J.), 23-2

The Hilltoppers won the Tournament of Champions title over Oak Knoll (N.J.) 10-4. It is the final year that New Jersey is sponsoring the TOC. The state final win avenged a 9-6 loss to Oak Knoll in the Union County Tournament championship. Summit’s only other loss came by a goal to Sacred Heart (Conn.). Yale commit Lily Spinner posted 96 points to lead the Hilltoppers offense. Jane Freeman (Johns Hopkins commit) had a team-high 57 goals while sophomore Anya Wardle delivered 56 assists. All three will return for next season. Previous: 9

10. Conestoga (Pa.), 24-1

The Pioneers won their second state championship, 15-7, over Manheim Township (Pa.). Ellie Wisch and Kiki Liebezeit scored four goals apiece and each had an assist as well. Kate Galico scored four goals too. Conestoga finished with titles this season in the Central League, District 1 and the state championship. Their lone loss was by a single goal to unbeaten Archbishop Carroll (Pa.). Galica (UVA commit) had a monster year with 91 goals, 29 assists, 95 draw controls, 48 ground balls and 58 caused turnovers. Wisch scored 47 goals in her sophomore season, and Melissa Hewitt, Liebezeit and Chloe Brown all had at least 33 goals. Kat Bielinski was the Pioneers’ top defender with 40 ground balls and 29 caused turnovers. Previous: 10

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