Monday, April 2, 2012
Recap: No. 4 L-S 13, No. 1 Westwood 12
By Brendan Hall
SUDBURY, Mass. -- Megan Mullins was ecstatic when she was named the starting goaltender for the Lincoln-Sudbury varsity, her first such nod.
And then when she took a look at the first game on the schedule -- defending Division 1 state champ and regional juggernaut Westwood -- she couldn't help but quiver a bit.
"Honestly, I was really, really scared," the sophomore chuckled. "I had faith, [but] I was very, very scared that we wouldn't do it."
Today in school, the nerves only grew ("I don't think I heard a word any of my teachers were saying," she laughed). But when it came down to the most crucial moment in the game, trying to put the finishing touches on a 13-12 upset of the Wolverines -- a moment that Duke-bound attack Maddie Acton called "the scariest two minutes of my life" -- Mullins seized the moment.
Facing a free position shot from eight yards out with 45 seconds left, Mullins stopped Shelly Walsh at the post, then thwarted the rebound, but the Wolverines were awarded another free position near the goal line. From there, Laura McHoul's feed to sophomore Ella Hazar from behind the net went a little too high.
Then with 10 seconds left, Notre Dame commit Rachel Sexton (goal, assist) put the finishing touches on the victory, sealing off the doorstep from McHoul (goal, six assists) as the UNH-bound senior attack came around the back of net and tried to slip underneath with an inside roll to the post.
"I went on adrenaline," Sexton said. "Laura's just an incredible player, and I didn't want to let her get by me. As a defender, you never want to let a girl beat you inside."
Circled on the Calendar: This marks Westwood's first regular season loss since 2009, when they dropped a decision to Longmeadow in the middle of May, a notion that Acton (six goals) said the team was "well-aware" of.
"To beat Westwood, they're our rivals," Acton said. "I think the biggest thing is, they kicked us out of the state semi's last year, so I know all preseason we've been looking forward to this game."
L-S head coach Deb DeJesus acknowledged the significance of the win, but cautioned her players to stay focused.
"I said to the girls, we have 19 more to go, and they said 'Can't we just enjoy this?'" DeJesus said. "I'm like, 'Yeah, but we have 19 more to go'. They are an incredible program, and it's the first game of the season for both of us, so they're going to get a lot stronger. And hopefully we'll get a lot stronger."
McHoul's Office: Year after year Westwood is revered for its patience in the offensive zone, waiting for players to find an inch to drive by her defender and hitting them with a pass in stride. Should the seam close up, players are usually in good position to draw a penalty, or adept enough to kick the ball back out and starting the cycle over again.
Early on, McHoul repeatedly set up behind the net and fed both Kate Rich (eight goals) and Marina Burke (two goals) for quick-stick goals cutting backdoor. Down 4-1 less than eight minutes into the game, DeJesus called a timeout to make some adjustments.
"We've been trying out a new defense, and we've lost four of our starters on defense," DeJesus said. "Just some quick reminders to them. We've got great athletes, and smart athletes back there."
The backdoor play from Westwood wasn't anything unexpected.
"Something Westwood's really good at is the back doors," Acton said. "And we knew that before the game, but we just really had to focus on the fact that they hadn't been driving that much, so stay with your girl, and if they started driving, call for a double [team]."
Out of the timeout, L-S immediately began clicking at the offensive end, with three straight goals from Megan Griffin, before heading into the break trailing 7-4.
Faceoffs Keyed Surge: L-S went goal for goal with the Wolverines in the second half, eventually pulling ahead for good with eight minutes remaining thanks to a free position goal from Acton that made it 12-11. Sexton made it 13-11 a minute later with a nifty little maneuver, backpedaling away from the net to draw two defenders and then bursting by them to beat the goalie high.
In the girls edition of lacrosse, with such limited contact, possession is imperative. In the second half, the Warriors excelled at winning faceoffs.
"That's what it was about," DeJesus said. "And that was just really about fighting hard. They could have gone either way."
Praise for Mullin: Mullins' coaches and teammates were especially happy for her, notching a win over one of the state's great all-time powers in her first varsity action.
"Megan came through huge for us today," Sexton said. "She went above and beyond everything we expected of her."
With some key losses on defense, there were questions heading into the season about how much of a concern goaltending would be for L-S. Suffice it to say this was a pretty positive sign they'll be OK in that department.
"She was getting a little discouraged," DeJesus said. "But the goalie, it's a horrible position because the odds of saving the ball aren't great. So sometimes you just have to remind them, 'Hey, you had no chance there, hang in there'."
Of Mullins' save in the last minute, DeJesus was satisfied.
"That was huge," she said. "It was all positioning with her at that moment. I'm proud of her."