WELLESLEY, Mass. -– There was little thought in coach Meredith Frank's mind that her team would have a let down coming off a dramatic win over top-seeded Westwood in the South finals last Thursday.
Her Notre Dame of HIngham squad grabbed the lead early and weathered a late comeback effort by North champion Westford Academy (23-2) to win 12-9 in the first ever Division 1 Eastern Mass finals appearance for the Cougars (23-2), at Wellesley College.
“It starts and ends with out leadership,” said Frank. “Lots of off ball movement and giving each other opportunities to touch the ball and make plays. It started off with Charlotte putting a few away early then they got in their rhythm.”
Cougars senior Alex Dalton buried six efforts, while freshman Charlotte Allard tallied four goals and one assist.
One and Done: Notre Dame defensively thrived at limiting Westford Academy to one shot possessions. This helped the Cougars control the ball for the first 43 minutes and force 21 free positions.
A high cradle by Allard helped her push through a stick check as she scored an unassisted goal after only 35 seconds of play to put Notre Dame ahead for good.
“In the first half we did very well coming up with the ground ball and limiting them to one opportunity,” said Frank. “It is all about stick work (and) getting your body in a position to protect your stick.”
Dalton worked her defender up top until the possible slide behind her misstepped then hit the hole to begin a four score run for the Cougars at 5-3 with 54.5 seconds left in the first half. With her fellow players circling near the post Dalton cut in from behind and ended the run at 9-3 with 21:36 remaining in the match.
“That is not really a set play just our motion offense,” said Dalton. “I just saw the whole defense looking at the girl with the ball so I felt like I could sneak right in there. When you make eye contact like that (on a cut) it is awesome.”
Drawing their Balance: Westford Academy won three straight draws and scored three goals in 1:15 to force a tight ending.
After a stoppage of play, Grey Ghosts' Bailey Mongillo one-touched a sideline pass infront of net to fellow senior Taylor Freud, who quickly released a 11-5 tally at 6:56. Mongillo underhand an isolated effort while coming from behind the net and junior Jenna Klinka went top net off a draw for an11-7 margin with 5:41 left.
“We adjust some things on the draw and organized our offense,” said Westford coach Julie Olivier. “We practice fast breaks in different situations so they know what to do.”
Freud hit junior Erica Mattila wide open behind the defense at 4:54, but goalie sophomore Hanna Cooper (nine saves) made a mid level save. A free position goal stopped the comeback three minutes later.
“She has come up with huge saves when we need her to,” said Frank. “She has stuck in every single play of every single game. We stopped being as aggressive as we could have been and I thought we lost a little bit of possession.”
Freud buried four goals and assisted one, while Mongillo scored a pair of goals and assisted one.
Success in Short: Both coaches have shown impressive growth in their third-year as both programs' won their first regional title last week.
Frank defeated both of last years' South finalist, including two-time defending state champ Westwood (23-1) and Needham (20-2) to reach this point. The Grey Ghosts not only beat rival Lincoln-Sudbury for the first time in program history, but bested them twice to win their first ever Dual County League (Large) title.
“I told them when I started it is a marathon not a sprint,” said Olivier. “Our growth was much more exponential than I expected, but these girls are hard workers. I started with fundamentals then the next year we focused on strategy, but we never stopped doing fundamentals.”