HINGHAM, Mass. -- Notre Dame of Hingham coach Meredith Frank remembers the three-mile runs that would frequent practices in her career at Westwood. As a player they would joke they ran more than the track team, though she now denies it was true.
It is this commitment to resilience that has led to five MIAA Division 1 championships for her mother and former coach Leslie Frank -- including two with Meredith playing -- and that has yearly produced college-ready athletes for top programs like Northwestern.
It was also this level of athleticism that pushed No. 3 seed Westwood (21-2) out of ahead of Meredith's second-seeded Panthers (21-2) on Tuesday and that helped it hold pace as they advanced to Division 1 South finals with an 18-8 road win.
“It was not always peaches and cream with her, but you were better off for it,” said Meredith Frank. “What made her different was the emphasis on athlete endurance and speed.”
“Our fitness can not let down just becaue it is cold and unfavorable,” added Leslie Frank.
Seniors Laura McHoul are Kate Rich are familiar with this standard having grabbed state titles in '09 and '11 under the Westwood skipper. Both players have played a crucial role in defending that crown all season and were no different on Thursday.
McHoul fronted all scorers with six goals and three assict, while Rich put in four and assisted a pair.
Junior Marina Burke started the Wolverines on a nine-goal streak to open by grabbing a free position assist from teammate sophomore Ela Hazar three minutes in. A cross-field assist from Hazar to McHoul made way for a backdoor score by freshman Brooke Troy and a 9-0 advantage at 6:16.
“We use weighted sticks in practice (and) it helps our sticks feel lighter,” said McHoul. “We go on long runs before practice then do
some sprint in practice. When we are running against a fast team we can compete.”
These stick drills are the same ones that helped Meredith develop her handle as youth and made way for both her and sister Alex to each win a pair of state titles. Both the Notre Dame headwoman and her younger sibling carried their talents to Northwestern where they contributed to six NCAA women’s lacrosse championship.
“She never waivers her philosophy,” said Meredith Frank of her mother. “She uses the same drills whether it is a 4th grader or 12th
grader. It is this philosophy that creates confident young women.”
Lacrosse success runs in the Frank lineage and so does the ability to coach it. Older brother Drew brought Colorado's smallest school, St. Mary's High in Colorado Springs, to its first winning season at 8-6. In Hingham, Meredith has taken a perennial playoff program and turned it to a title contender.
“(Leslie) started coaching me in youth lacrosse in fifth grade and was a big part of lacrosse taking of in Westwood,” said Meredith Frank. “Everything I know about coaching is a combination mother and Northwestern coach Kelly [Amonte Hiller].”
A behing the crease isolation run by junior Amelia Brown helped break the shutout for Notre Dame at 4:35 as the Panthers went on their longest run off the night. Teammate junior Alex Dalton whipped a sidearm set piece in the final seconds to cut the score to 9-3 at halftime.
Despite both teams scoring to open the second, Rich motioned completely around the crease then buried a low rip to prompt a four-tally run at 20:33. Burke caught a cross net assist from teammate sophomore Healy to put the Wolverine's up 14-4 six minutes later.
The Panthers would never cut back within nine.
“A large part of the plan was to force them out without swinging and forcing fouls,” said Leslie Frank. “They have so many well-trained shooters. I respect the job she has done, but when I am coaching I do not really think about her.”