Two Missed Seasons Couldn't Stop National Player of the Year Christina Gagnon

With her mom being a lacrosse coach, it might seem natural that Christina Gagnon would gravitate to playing the sport.

It took a while, however, for the St. Paul’s (Md.) senior midfielder to share her mother’s passion for lacrosse.

A late-discovered appreciation for the sport didn’t limit her ability to produce for the Gators. Gagnon tallied 60 points on 36 goals and 24 assists to lead her team to a No. 1 national ranking and a 15-1 season that included the program’s first Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference Championship.

Gagnon, who may as well have been born with a crosse in hand, is the Nike/USA Lacrosse National and Mid-Atlantic Girls’ Player of the Year.

“I played one year barely of rec lacrosse, and I absolutely hated it,” Gagnon recalled. “I thought it was so stupid with all the whistles. I was like, ‘Mom, why didn’t you tell me the rules?’ I ran through the crease my first game. I didn’t know what was going on. I was such a soccer player. It took me a while.”

Gagnon was focused at the time on another Gagnon family sport — soccer. The youngest of five children, including three brothers, Gagnon played competitive travel soccer for Maryland United.

“Even in family soccer games, they never let me off easy,” Gagnon said. “I had to hold my own. My brother and I always played 1-v-1, trampoline soccer, we called it. He always played his hardest. He never let me by easy. That’s a big impact on how I play now, how my competitive drive is. I’m going to play just as hard as I would play against my brother.”

Just before she got to middle school, Gagnon joined her mother’s M&D club lacrosse team. There, she found the competitiveness that she craved. The skill work would come over the next six years as she poured more energy into it.

“When I joined M&D, that’s when I started liking lacrosse,” Gagnon said. “I played defense at first. It took me a couple years, and then I really fell in love with it and I decided on lacrosse over soccer in the long run.”

Gagnon’s passion for lacrosse grew from there, which made it all the more difficult when she lost back-to-back spring seasons, first to a torn ACL suffered just before her sophomore season and then to the COVID-19 pandemic her junior season.

It set the stage for this spring’s return to play.

“We wanted it so bad,” Gagnon said. “Those two years, or one year for some people, it was crazy motivation for us. I know everyone went through it, but for me it was an extra year.”

Gagnon made the most of her final season with St. Paul’s. She was the catalyst for one of the best seasons in program history.

That at least erased some of the sting of the missed time.

“With my injury and COVID, it was so amazing to end like that,” Gagnon said. “It did match my dreams and my expectations. It was an amazing, amazing season with our team. We had so much fun, not just that we were successful. We had the greatest time. We always talk about how much we could go back in time and replay it.”

Gagnon put a cap on her high school career as she helped the Gators Lax club win the White Session final at the National High School Lacrosse Showcase. Gagnon had four goals and an assist in a 14-7 win over the ABC team from Pennsylvania in the final, the sort of performance that St. Paul’s has come to expect of her.

“She’s a player we needed on the field,” said Mary Gagnon, Christina’s mom and coach at both St. Paul’s and her M&D club team. “She contributed in different roles and different ways. She’s a leader. She just plays really hard.”

“She’s a leader. She just plays really hard.”

— Mary Gagnon

St. Paul’s used Gagnon on the circle or taking the draw control, and she helped to set the tone on offense. Whether she was scoring or assisting others, Gagnon provided key plays in big games. Her physical style enabled her to match up with the top players in the region at both ends. And she took her role as the lone captain seriously.

“I felt like I had the responsibility to bring us together after not being together for a year because of COVID and creating an amazing team atmosphere,” Gagnon said. “I think we were successful because we loved each other, everyone worked for each other. It was the No. 1 thing I wanted this year. It came down to our sophomore year, that’s the year our team got really, really close and our chemistry on the field came through.”

As sophomores, the St. Paul’s Class of 2021 was part of a team on the rise. They twice took perennial power McDonogh to double overtime before losing, including the IAAM “A” championship game.

Gagnon was on the sidelines for those heartbreaking losses, just as she was on the sidelines for every practice and game. She did her knee rehabilitation before school so she didn’t miss any time with the team.

“It was rough that year,” Gagnon said. “I wouldn’t change it because I learned so much from being hurt and being off the field for so long. I learned how much I wanted it and loved the game. It helped me even though it’s the worst timing that could have ever happened.”

Gagnon, who did play three seasons of defense for the St. Paul’s girls soccer team, was cleared to play lacrosse again before last spring and played in some fall and winter events before the pandemic forced her to wait another year to play for St. Paul’s.

“We knew the COVID year that we lost, we knew we’d do well that year, too,” Gagnon said. “For those seniors and me missing two years, we wanted it so, so bad. We knew, not to sound bad, it was going to happen.”

This season, St. Paul’s became the first IAAM team to knock off McDonogh in the regular season since 2008. The Gators’ perseverance was reflected in their conference semifinal rally from a five-goal deficit to stop Glenelg Country. They also rallied from a seven-goal deficit to tie the game in their only loss of the season, 10-9 to Notre Dame Prep. St. Paul’s then beat McDonogh again 17-8 in the championship game to send Gagnon’s senior class out on top.

“This week it hit me,” said Mary Gagnon after the Gators played one last time together at the national showcase final. “Just watching them play, it’s a very close team. We still have a lot of talent. I’m excited for what we have coming back. That group, just not looking out on the field and seeing all them playing together will be tough. They had synergy with each other.”

The Gators graduates will go their separate ways this fall. Gagnon is headed to USC, the first player from her M&D club to sign with the Women of Troy. After playing last week with several USC commits, she is more excited for the next step in her career.

“I want to play at the next level, I want to contribute to USC the best way I can, and hopefully with our team we can win some championships in the Pac-12,” Gagnon said. “I’m excited to get out there and meet everyone and be a part of that family.”

Doing so will put her on the opposite side of the country, away from her family and her mom, who played an instrumental role in introducing her to the game and inspiring her development. When her mom offered to help players improve, Gagnon was always there putting in more work.

“She’s always been my coach for club and high school,” Gagnon said. “We’ve had our moments, but it’s so special. I’m so lucky to have her as my coach. It’s going to be weird next year not having her as my coach. Both of us, the amount of conversations and talks, videos, film sessions we’ve had, our passion for it together was unmatched. It made it so much extra special to finish out the championship not only with my team, but my mom and coach by my side.”

Nike/USA Lacrosse High School Rankings
National Boys' Top 25 | National Girls' Top 25
Northeast Boys' Top 10 | Northeast Girls' Top 10
Mid-Atlantic Boys' Top 10 | Mid-Atlantic Girls' Top 10
South Boys' Top 10
| South Girls' Top 10
Midwest Boys' Top 10
| Midwest Girls' Top 10
West Boys' Top 10
| West Girls' Top 10

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1. St. Paul's (Md.), 15-1 

After winning the Indoor National Championship in the winter, St. Paul’s carried the momentum into the spring with another title while playing in the deepest conference in the country. The Gators claimed their first IAAM championship since 2006. Twice, St. Paul’s knocked off reigning champion McDonogh, including in the title game. Christina Gagnon led the Gators with 60 points on 36 goals and 24 assists, while Caitlin McElwee finished with a team-high 48 goals and had five assists. Lauren Steer scored 23 goals and had 19 assists, and Frannie Hahn was just behind with 40 points on 30 goals and 10 assists. Paris Colgain was St. Paul’s top defender and had seven interceptions while marking opponent’s top attackers. Josie Hahn helped at both ends of the field with 35 ground balls and scored 25 goals.

2. McDonogh (Md.), 13-3

The Eagles’ season finished with another trip to the IAAM championship. McDonogh opened the year with nine straight wins. They also defeated Notre Dame Prep (Md.) twice in the season. Kori Edmondson is a junior who will return after a huge year with 59 goals, 10 assists, 54 draw controls and 10 caused turnovers. Caroline Godine scored 25 goals, tallied 20 assists and added five caused turnovers. Kemper Robinson finished with 22 goals, eight assists, 35 draws and 15 caused turnovers.

3. Stone Ridge (Md.), 8-2

Stone Ridge put together a breakout campaign this year against a competitive schedule that included three of the top five Mid-Atlantic teams. The Gators beat Georgetown Visitation (D.C.) twice, split with St. Stephens & St. Agnes (Va.) and nearly knocked off McDonogh before falling in overtime. Grace Muldoon paced the offense with 45 goals and 18 assists and also posted team-highs of 35 draw controls and 29 ground balls. Caroline Conaghan finished with a balanced line of 20 goals and a team-leading 25 assists. Grace Slater scored 34 goals to go with 19 assists, and Julia Carr tallied 23 goals and 11 assists. Goalie Emelia Bohi allowed just 5.8 goals per game and made 80 total saves.

4. Georgetown Visitation (D.C.), 4-2      

The Cubs’ season began by knocking off St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes twice. They also edged perennial power Bishop Ireton (Va.) during a quite restrictive schedule. Sally Zinser paced the offense with 13 goals and 11 assists on the year, and Molly McGuckin scored 12 goals and won 16 draw controls. Molly Finlay also had a dozen goals to go with five assists. Allison Baldwin keyed the defense with 12 ground balls and eight caused turnovers.

5. St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.), 10-3

The Saints finished another strong season in coach Kate Jenkins’ 45th year at the helm. SSSA won the VISAA championship over Collegiate School (Va.) and notably split two games with Stone Ridge. Cate Bradley paced the offense with 28 goals and 25 assists. Annabel Frist had a team-high 33 goals as well as a team-best 79 draw controls, 30 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers. Mira Majure scored 22 goals, Brooke Kurtz posted 22 assists to go with 15 goals. Nicole Cruthird won 27 draw controls, and Lane Lambeth contributed 17 goals and eight assists. Rita Peterson had 15 points before suffering a season-ending injury. Defensively, Morgan Lewis caused 11 turnovers and had 19 ground balls. Sidney Southworth and Emmy Pascal each had 15 ground balls and nine caused turnovers.


6. Oak Knoll (N.J.), 21-1

The Royals won the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title, 10-9, over Moorestown (N.J.) to cap a big year. The win was its 20th straight. A one-goal loss to Chatham (N.J.) in the second game of the season inspired the Royals, who continued to climb from there. Colleen Quinn led the offense with 77 goals and 40 assists. Lily Ramsey scored 61 goals and added 20 assists. Annika Spoor led the team with 92 draw controls and had 63 points on 37 goals and 26 assists.

7. Notre Dame Prep (Md.), 13-2

Notre Dame reached the IAAM semifinals after being the lone team in the regular season to defeat St. Paul’s (Md.). Nancy Halleron finished the year with 40 goals, 16 assists and 125 draw controls. Halley Koras fired in 28 goals to go with a team-high 19 assists. Annie Marshall’s 21 goals and eight assists gave the team a reliable third weapon, while Kailey Pelkey scored 16 goals and added 11 assists. Olivia Rockstroh led the defensive end with 19 caused turnovers, 34 ground balls and 40 successful clears.

8. Radnor (Pa.), 21-2

The Raiders won the school’s fourth state title after avenging a regular-season loss with back-to-back wins over Conestoga (Pa.), once in districts and once in the state semifinals. Radnor’s balanced attack was led all season by Sheila Esgro (54 goals, 28 assists), Tori DiCarlo (48 goals, 30 assists), and Cierra Hopson (41 goals, 37 assists). Margaret Mooney won 114 draw controls and DiCarlo had 70 draw controls.

9. Good Counsel (Md.), 7-1

Good Counsel rode the leadership of 15 seniors and 12 Division 1 players to a strong season. The Falcons knocked off usual power Bishop Ireton in an early statement game. Their lone loss came against No. 3 Stone Ridge in a game that was tight until the final 18 minutes.

10. Moorestown (N.J.), 18-3

The Quakers had a 6-4 lead at halftime before rallied to knock them off, 10-9, in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions final. Moorestown beat Chatham (N.J.) and Cherokee (N.J.) on the way to the final during a run that saw steady improvement. Katie Buck had a team-high 65 goals and 23 assists and also won 165 draw controls, while Dylan Silar scored 40 goals and added 20 assists. Margaret Lawler and Emma Dengler each finished with 43 goals and 11 assists.