Boston High School: Leslie Frank

Recap: No. 1 Westwood 7, No. 2 Notre Dame (H) 4

May, 1, 2013

WESTWOOD, Mass. -– The ever-suspenseful coaching rematch between Leslie Frank and daughter Meredith showed both how far the Notre Dame of Hingham program has come, and why Leslie's two-time defending state champ Westwood remains the standard for girls' lacrosse in Massachusetts.

In a tight defensive battle between the top two ranked programs in the state, No. 1 Westwood (10-0) again edged No. 2 NDH (8-2), 7-4, to win the regular season rematch of the last years' south sectional semifinals at Flahive Field last night.

“We wanted the ball back so furiously,” said Westwood coach Leslie Frank. “You could just see the teamwork. When someone was going in for a shot the double was coming.”

Westwood outscored the Cougars 5-1 over a 23:42 span to pull away from an early 2-2 tie.

Junior Ela Hazar (foul goals) bounced in a free position to start the run at 3-2 with 15:36 left in the first half. A minute and a half later junior Kim Egizi drew three defenders away from the net and setup a backhanded 4-2 score by Hazar along the post to help guarantee the Cougars would never equalize.

“We just tried to play a little bit more aggressive,” said Meredith Frank. “Last time we played them we sort of turtle'd. We kept up our intensity defensively.”

After allowing a deep free position score by Notre Dame junior Kelsey Bowen, Westwood scored twice in the final minute of the first half to go ahead 6-3. Egizi finished a backdoor tally at 53.8 seconds. The junior then hit Hazar in motion along the net where she knocked the ball out of the air and into the inside of the top post for a 6-3 goal.

“Lots of shooting drills are done in two's; quick feet (and) quick shots,” said Leslie Frank. “It is to her credit that (Hazar) can stick that with a swarm of defenders on her. She has legit soft hands, beautiful stick control and beautiful finishing work.”

R'Askin A Lot In Net: Meghan Raskin was absolutely the difference for Westwood in the victory with 14 saves. The Cougars controlled possession and peppered the junior with shots all second half, including nine shots-on-goal, but were only able to score once.

Raskin opened the later half by shifting to catch ND (H) senior Julia Simmons along the post on a dangerous pass from freshman Charlotte Allard. Within four minutes of play Raskin just swung her net low enough to save her second free position in two minutes.

“Stepping up to the occasion is something that is really important,” said Raskin. “We always do eight-meter shots so we are prepared for that. You just have to keep a good head on you shoulders.”

Cracking a Defensive Stalemate: Westwood sophomore Colleen Burke worked her way through a gap in the defense and snuck horizontally past the front of the net to open up a high 7-3 scoring effort after 16 minutes of play in the second half. Fifty one seconds later Cougars' sophomore Lexi Lenaghan caught a high lob from Allard and buried it along the back post for the 7-4 final.

“(Raskin) was dominate on her low saves,” said Meredith Frank. “I wish we could have shot the ball a little higher. This is just one more step in where we want to take this program.”

Lenaghan ripped an open shot off the top crossbar with 4:55 left, while junior Isabella O'Connor bulldozed her way past two defenders to force a tough low save from Raskin.

Up and Coming Family Rivalry: Meredith played on two of her mother's six Division 1 state champion teams before playing four years at juggernaut Northwestern University. Last year was a breakthrough season for the program, but the Cougars were brought back down to Earth with a tough 18-8 south sectional semifinal loss in Meredith's first matchup against her mother.

The tight loss last night showed another step in the right direction, as the two squads remain the favorites for the South region and the state as a whole this season.

“I am following the lead of my girls and my school,” said Meredith Frank. “This is just one more step in where we want to take this program. My mom has done this for a long time and she has earned that respect and discipline from her players and that is what I am trying to instill.”

D1 South Girls Lax: Westwood 12, Needham 9

June, 9, 2012

NEEDHAM, Mass. -- Laura McHoul comfortably worked her position behind the net as she eyed for cutters.

A slight sag in the defense showed and the midfielder whipped a pass inches from the defender's net and into Kate Rich's grasp. As the two senior captains connected for the winning tally it became a sight all too familiar for the Wolverines' opponents.

Running its offense from its two senior stars, No. 3 Westwood (22-2) girls' lacrosse bested top-seeded Needham (22-2) 12-9 at Memorial Park yesterday in a Division 1 South finals rematch.

The win advances the defending state champs to play North champion Lincoln-Sudbury (23-1) at Babson College on Monday.

“We have a good connection on the field, so I trust it when I pass it too her,” said McHoul. “She just gets her stick open and she is tall enough that I can lob it in.”

Added Rich, “(We) don't want to stop playing."

Rich netted four, while McHoul assisted five and scored two. The seniors produced the go-ahead goal at 12:13 in the second half, while adding insurance with a pair of unassisted backdoor cuts.

“We wanted for everyone else to clear through,” said Westwood coach Leslie Frank. “We try to take advantage of the weakest defender and to get those matchups on Kate and Laura. When they happen, they have to go.”

Twice trailing by four to open, the Tri-Valley champs battled back to even by running quick plays off draws. A side net pass from McHoul to Rich evened the score at 5-5 with 4:39 left in the first half, while a two-on-one counter-attack assist from Ela Hazar (three goals, two assists) to fellow sophomore Jamison O'Neil gave the Wolverines' their first lead up 8-7 at 22:01 in second.

The two teams would equalize two more times, before Westwood pulled away.

Forcing the Freebies: The Rockets, who had previously not beaten Westwood since 2002, won their regular season matchup 12-10 at home by forcing 10 goals off set pieces. Creating penalties were big offensively again for Needham
in the rematch, as the Rockets scored all but one tally off a set-piece, including its first four finishes.

A one-timer from sophomore Kira Oberle to teammate freshman Carly Colman out of a penalty gave the Bay State Carey champs their largest lead up 4-1 fifteen minutes into the first.

“We just try to play less physical defense,” said Frank. “However, it is impossible (to avoid) at this level. They are so hungry for it and
they have come so far.”

Annee Time: Goalie Annee O'Connor has been the foundation for Needham's defense all season. The keeper made 10 saves to keep the Rockets alive on Friday, with a majority coming face-to-face with a shooter.

Needham coach Beth O'Brien cited the twenty minutes each practice she spent working with O'Connor as a reason for her success. A period she called "Annee time."

“We do reaction drills where it is rapid fire and a lot of the time we use tennis balls,” said O'Brien. “Low to high, crease work, and just lining up to rapid fire balls. That is something we have not done before.”

Tough Road: L-S will be the third straight opponent ranked in the top five of ESPNBoston's statewide poll that Westwood has faced.

The Wolverines lost a road thriller, 13-12, to the Warriors earlier in the season, but eliminated the the DCL Large champs in the previous year's state semifinals by a 15-7 margin. Westwood was the top seed in the South last year.

“I guess we are the underdogs but we are not done,” said McHoul. “We are ready to fight all the way.”

Frank family fingerprints in D1 South lacrosse

June, 5, 2012

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.”

D1 girls lax: Westwood 19, Wellesley 3

May, 31, 2012

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Two time state girls' lacrosse champions Laura McHoul and Kate Rich not only know what it takes to win a title, but showed they are ready to defend their crown this afternoon.

Battling from opposite sides of the crease, the seniors worked passing lanes and found openings all afternoon as they lead defending champs No. 3 Westwood (20-0) to the Division 1 South semifinals with a 19-3 defeat of guest No. 6 Wellesley (12-8) at Flahive Field.

The Wolverines have eliminated Wellesley from five straight postseason, while winning four of the last eight state titles.

“Laura and I have a lot of experience and we are trying to pass that
down,” said Rich. “We have a young team. One of our focuses was off ball movement and I think we did a really good job of that.”

Rich netted five and assisted three, while McHoul both tallied and assisted four.

Opening with nine straight, Westwood put an additional 15 shots on goal as it rumbled ahead early and never looked back.

Spread Out and Attack: The Wolverines look to spread out their opponents then attack the openings. Working McHoul rear of the crease and Rich up top, the seniors bobbed in and out testing isolated openings and finding horizontal passing lanes.

Rich backed up her defender and buried a shot over the keeper's shoulder in the first few seconds for the Wolverines first score, while McHoul slipped in behind the net to assist a quick flicked finish by sophomore Ela Hazar for a 9-0 lead at 9:49 in the initial half.

“Our goal is to spread it out more,” said Westwood coach Leslie Frank. “(Laura) sees openings and hits the pass well. If Kate is behind, Laura can finish.”

Push 'Em Back: Coach Frank aimed to double high and push the Raiders towards the halfway line. This defense was effective in forcing backwards offensive motion as Westwood limited Wellesley to one shot-on-goal in the first eleven minutes.

A pair of unassisted second-half tallies from freshman Caroline Bradley and junior Molly Connelly, at 7:33 and 4:23 respectively, were a brief sign of attacking life for the Raiders.

“We tried to spread them out as much as we could, but they put us under a ton of pressure,” said Wellesley first-year coach Sarah Dacey. “We knew they were going to double, so we prepared the girls for that. This is a team you have to spread out and create lanes.”

Finishing Touch: A penalty effort by junior Annie Valle to open Wellesley's scoring at 4:32 in the first was quickly squashed by eight straight from the Tri-Valley League champs.

Rich caught a pair of back net assist for two late first half goals, while twelve minutes into the second half freshman Brooke Troy buried two off penalties chances to produce a 17-1 deficit.

“We do a lot of work on draw control (which) is key to gaining the first two possessions (and) makes you feel some confidence,” said Frank. “That was the key to them executing well with confidence.”

Westwood grabbed five of the first seven draws, while finishing with a three win advantage.

Family First: Westwood faces tomorrow’s winner between No. 2 seed Notre Dame of Hingham (20-1) and No. 7 Newton North (13-5-1), with the date to be decided. A win by the Cougars would set up the first match up between Notre Dame coach Meredith Frank and mother Leslie.

“I am looking forward to it,” said Leslie Frank of the opportunity. “We try to do the right thing from the sidelines, but very little at this point happens from a coaches standpoint. It is out of both of our hands.”

Recap: No. 3 Westwood 18, No. 12 Norwell 6

May, 17, 2012

NORWELL, Mass. -- Kate Rich ducked one defender, saw the hole and jetted towards the net.

Quickly finishing over the keeper's shoulder, the senior pumped her fist as she yelled at her teammates to keep going. It was only Westwood's second tally, but Rich and her fellow Wolverines made it clear early that they were not taking their Division 2 South opponents lightly.

Rolling to an 18-6 triumph over host No. 12 Norwell (10-7), the third-ranked defending Division 1 state champs (16-2) added another
impressive girls' lacrosse victory to their belt on Thursday.

“We love to play teams that fight from start to finish,” said Westwood head coach Leslie Frank.“We were battling for the ball and working together. We work the zone then watch the opening behind or on the opposite side.”

The Tri-Valley champs put away Norwell by outscoring it 11 to one in the final twenty minutes. A pair of side net cuts for scores by senior Shelly Walsh and sophomore Ela Hazar caught the defense shifted off to put the Wolverines ahead 9-5 at 19:26.

A falling over finish off a counterattack by sophomore Kasey Keane
finished the run fifteen minutes later.

“We always stack up high and are looking for that one second where the defender turns her head,” said senior Laura McHoul. “You can not just shoot or just pass the ball. You (have) to be a threat from both.”

Sophomore Jamison O'Neil buried five for Westwood in the second half, including an front net cut for a 16-6 lead and her third consecutive goal at 8:09. O'Neil totaled seven goals and one assist, while McHoul was a constant threat behind the keeper with two tallies and six assists.

“If we can draw the shooting space (things) works a lot better,” said O'Neil. “You have to be really fast to run right through that. Keep your team moving (and) pump fake so it looks like you are going to shoot.”

Tough Draw: The Clippers out drew Westwood 10 to one in the first half. Despite producing one less shot on goal, Norwell fell victim to an early 4-0 hole. Westwood rolled away in the second half by besting 11 of fifteen draws.

“We started working together,” said Frank. “Everyone goes after the
ball high instead of one going after the ball high and the other low
like you should.”

Clipping Away At The Lead: The South Shore League champion Clippers were able to bring the score within a pair three times.

Sophomore Lexa Grasz opened the scoring for the Clippers down 4-0
with an upfront assist from teammate senior Ashley Allington and a set piece finish twelve minutes in. Norwell junior Devon Croke snuck through the side of the defense to slice the lead to 5-3 six minutes later, while junior Maddie Ward finished an impressive solo breakaway to push a 7-5 score at 22:03.

“It was difficult to control their offensive cuts,” said Norwell coach Kara Connerty. “We wanted to utilize all the speed we had offensively. Really just to push it and take it to the cage when we had it.”

Tricky Record: Norwell's record speaks more to difficulty of schedule than overall strength. The Clippers played seven games against Division 1 playoff-bound teams this season, including five losses against teams ranked in the top five of ESPNBoston's poll.

The 2009 and 2010 Division 2 champs will see none of these teams in
the postseason.

“This is the level we look to be at,” said Connerty. “This special
competition better prepares us for postseason play.”

MIAA announes Coaches of the Year

May, 15, 2012
The following coaches will be honored at the Second Annual Coach of the Year/Student Athlete Banquet on May 30, 2012. Each coach below has been named Coach of the Year by the MIAA for their respective sport:

Robert Mahoney, Notre Dame (Tyngsborough) -- Girls Volleyball
Amelia Davis, Algonquin -- Gymnastics
Kevin Burchill, Braintree -- Girls Ice Hockey
Jack Stoddard, Duxbury -- Boys Golf
Alex Naumann, Everett -- Boys Ice Hockey
Michael Foley, Framingham -- Swim
Fred Jewett, Hingham -- Indoor Track
Jim Leonard, King Philip -- Softball
Phil Maia, Lowell -- Cross Country
David Duffy, Needham -- Football
Frank Carey, North Reading -- Baseball
Rick Kates, Notre Dame (Hingham) -- Outdoor Track
David Gianferante, Notre Dame (Hingham) -- Girls Golf
Kim Penney, Reading -- Girls Basketball
David Curley, Rockport -- Boys Soccer
Ed Scollan, Westford -- Boys Basketball
Leslie Frank, Westwood -- Girls Lacrosse

Recap: No. 2 Westwood 15, No. 16 Framingham 8

April, 20, 2012

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- Two years removed from the squads that faced off in four straight state semifinals, defending state championships No. 2 Westwood (5-1-0) looked poised and ready to repeat this Friday afternoon, while guest No. 14 Framingham (2-3-0) struggled for a second consecutive year with a 15-8 loss.

“It is always good for us to play them because they really do bring so much fire and intensity,” said Westwood senior Kate Rich. “We knew they were going to be aggressive and play a really fast paced game. We tried to slow them down and push the ball when we needed too.”

The two teams have won the last seven MIAA Division 1 state titles, with Westwood claiming four. The Wolverines showed that advantage early by opening with five straight scores and never looking back.

Westwood's attack was fronted with five goals from Rich and four tallies from senior Shelly Walsh. Fellow upperclassmen Laura McHoul buried a hat trick, while also assisting two.

Early Rhythm: Motioning the rubber around the back of the net, McHoul hugged the post where she found Rich out front for Westwood's opening tally at 21:24. Continuing to rotate the ball around the crease, the Wolverines were able to offset the defense and open up one-on-ones with Framingham sophomore keeper Aileen Kelly.

Using her hip for positioning, junior Marina Burke nailed a deep sidearm at 12:22 to put Westwood up 5-0.

“If we could beat (Aileen) with a two versus one down low that would be our best shot,” said Westwood coach Leslie Frank. “They started doubling down on the ball so we had to adjust as well.”

Good, But Not Enough: The Flyers cut the deficit to two by the 11th minute, but were unable to get any closer as Westwood gradually slipped away.

Sandwiching a Wolverine tally with a pair of goals, junior Casey Duggan broke halfway down the field and bodied through a group of defenders to score first for Framingham. Senior Maya Szymanski (three goals) forced a set piece and buried it at 3:40 in the first to trail 6-4.

The Flyers kept within three until 12:47 in the second half, but were outscored six-to-one for the remainder.

“Our team is really solid within eight meters and that is really what our whole sets are built on,” said Framingham coach Stacey Freda. “If we were even fifty percent more successful with our shots that is eight more goals.”

The Finishing Touch: Using a stutter-step to offset her defenders, Rich buried a set play midway through the second half to go up 10-6. With Westwood scoring three straight, McHoul caught a long toss out of the back corner of the Flyers' turf by Walsh and finished them off with a 12-6 score at 10:24.

“We did not take any cushions,” said Frank. “To be patient on offense not only gives your defense a break, but shows them how much you respect what they did.”

Aileen made 19 saves, while Westwood senior keeper Mollie Brown knocked away 24.

Westwood makes it 3 of 4 over Longmeadow

June, 18, 2011
WORCESTER, Mass. -- For the third time in four years, the Westwood Wolverines girls' lacrosse team beat the Longmeadow Lancers in the the Division I MIAA State final on Friday at Foley Stadium, 15-9.

"This is probably one of the happiest moments in my life," Westwood's senior attack Emily McGrail said. "Not even winning [three championships], but being able to win one right here with all my teammates. I couldn't ask for such a better team this year. I thought we were all around great and we definitely deserved to win this year."

"[Westwood's] one of the top teams in the country for a reason," Longmeadow head coach Steve Dudeck said. "Hats off to them, they had a great season."

Westwood's junior midfielder Laura McHoul (five goals, two assists) helped the Wolverines jump out to a quick 4-1 lead when she registered three goals and dished out an assist in a span of 14 minutes.

Longmeadow answered after McHoul's first strike when senior midfielder Hannah McGrath netted a goal at 21:13.

The Lancers managed to come within two points of the Wolverines during the final seven minutes of the first half, but Westwood pulled away, as McHoul and Kate Rich (two goals, one assist) added two more goals before the break.

"We knew [there wasn't] a lot of time was left and we wanted to go into the half with some good momentum," Rich said. "What our team did really well with was keeping possession and pulling it together a good part of the game."

Ela Hazar (one goal, three assists), Sarah Biron and Rich extended Westwood's lead during the opening minutes of the second half before Longmeadow attempted a small comeback that wasn't so successful. Junior midfielder Eileen McDonald and freshman midfielder Jillian Scyocurka each scored twice before Biron secured the win for the Wolverines with back-to-back strikes.

"I think they were building confidence as they got more goals, but I think we were damn nervous," Westwood's head coach Leslie Frank said. "I counted about six turnovers, that was our halftime speech. We really needed better stick protection and you really needed sharper passes because [Longmeadow] kept knocking them down, so I think the adjustment in the second half helped a lot. They were much more careful with their possessions. "

After Longmeadow's senior attack Sarah Hannigan recorded her second goal of the game, Westwood retrieved the ball after the final face-off to run out the clock before the entire bench stampeded onto the turf to celebrate yet another championship.

"We wanted to [win this game] for the seniors," McHoul said. "They deserved it. They worked so hard throughout the whole season."

"All 50-minutes, we worked really hard and I couldn't ask for such a better game for us to end our season," McGrail said.

The Wolverines returned to Westwood a few hours later and were escorted back to the high school in grand fashion, as sirens blared throughout the town to notify the champion's return.

"This is incredible and I'm just so proud of our team. Our seniors have worked so hard for this and it all goes out to them," Rich said.

Westwood captures fifth straight D1 South title

June, 10, 2011
WESTWOOD, Mass. -– Leslie Frank and her Westwood Wolverines added some more hardware to their trophy case Friday evening, as they beat the Needham Rockets, 14-8, in the MIAA Division I South Sectional Finals.

“I think absent that lead [in the first half], we might have been in trouble,” Frank said. “[Overall], I was happy with the performance in light of [Needham’s] pressure,”

The Wolverines (23-0-1) began the game quickly, as they registered seven goals in a span of 18 minutes, thanks to freshman attack Ela Hazar (2 goals, 1 assist) and junior midfielder Kate Rich (5 goals, 1 assist).

Needham’s freshman attack Catherine Conley (two goals, assist) jump-started the Rockets (21-3) with their first score at 5:35, which then led to two more goals from junior midfielder Shelby Aubin and sophomore attack Maddie Stenberg (three goals, assist). Westwood, however, regained the momentum and scored two more times before the first half concluded.

“We said six goals means nothing in the game of lacrosse,” Needham head coach Beth O’Brien said. “We always keep in our mind that any gap, we’re able to comeback from, so I thought we played pretty bad [in the first half].”

Sophomore attack Marina Burke scored the Wolverines first goal at 23:32 in the second half, before the Rockets recorded their sixth goal of the contest, which came off the stick of senior defenseman Michaela Shea.

Yet, once again, Frank’s team rebounded and scored four more goals, which helped the Wolverines earn their fifth straight sectional title.

“First half, our shots weren’t really on, but then second half, we kind of got our shots in,” Westwood junior midfielder Laura McHoul said.

“I think [Needham] was coming after harder than we were holding onto,” Frank said. “I think given a third half, things might have got a lot closer.”

Needham did attempt a small comeback during the final minutes of the second half, but only managed to record two goals thanks to Stenberg. One of the bright spots for Needham was their freshman goaltender, Anne O’Connor, who played one of her better games of the season, as she finished the with 17-saves between the pipes.

“She’s played this way the entire year,” O’Brien said. “[She had] 14-saves in the win over Notre Dame the other day and I’d say by far, [she’s] one of the best goalies in the state.”

Westwood will return to the field Tuesday for at state semifinal at Wellesley College, where they’ll face the winner of tomorrow afternoon's Division 1 North final between Andover and Lincoln-Sudbury.

“This clearly wasn’t one of our best games, but we just got to bring it next game. [We] just need to concentrate on the little things and play our game,” McHoul said.

Westwood heads to 5th-straight D1 South final

June, 8, 2011
WESTWOOD, Mass. -- There was some hope this in the girls lacrosse community of eastern Massachusetts that 2011 was going to be be rebuilding year for Westwood.

After winning back-to-back state titles in 2008-09 and making a run to the state semifinals last year, the Wolverines have graduated dozens of talented players, four of whom contributed to this year’s NCAA Womens National Championship Northwestern squad. The hope was that the well had finally run dry.

So much for that theory.

Westwood roared through the regular season once again, its only blemish in 20 regular season games being a 15-15 tie with Western Mass. powerhouse Longmeadow. That run has continued into the postseason, and the top-seeded Wolverines have reached the Div. 1 south sectional title game for the fifth consecutive year after a resounding 18-7 victory over No. 3 Wellesley Wednesday night at Westwood High School.

Westwood (22-0-1) will face No. 2 Needham, an 8-6 winner over Notre Dame Academy in the other semifinal, in the South final on Friday at 6:45 p.m.

“We had a tough loss last year against Framingham [in the state semis] and we want to go out there and prove to people that isn’t a rebuilding year for us like everyone said it was going to be,” said senior captain Sarah Biron. “We’re not going to forget what it felt like to lose and we’re just going to go headfirst, all or nothing.”

Junior Laura McHoul was brilliant in running the Westwood offense, handing out a whopping 10 assists while scoring three times herself. Biron was the primary beneficiary, scoring five of her six goals in the first half as the Wolverines raced out to a 7-0 lead after the first 10 minutes, which they pushed to a 12-3 advantage at the half.

“I just know my teammates well and where they’re going to be,” said McHoul. “Its the experience of playing together over the whole season and knowing when someone’s going to be open and when they’re not. Its just knowing the players and having a good connection on the field.”

According to Westwood coach Leslie Frank, having a player the caliber of Biron, who will play at Johns Hopkins University next year, is one of the main reasons why her team has been able to pick up right where it left off because of how teammates such as McHoul have learned from her example.

“Laura is phenomenal. That’s her norm. Her assists are 5-6-7 a game,” Frank said. “She is the quintessential unselfish player and you know why that is? You have to talk about Sarah Biron.”

“Sarah Biron is unselfish, hits the open player,” Frank continued. “She’s taught Laura that. You have some of these star players on teams that do one thing. They go to goal, they don’t defend. Sarah’s example has brought Kate [Rich], Laura and Emily [McGrail] up to her level with that understanding of pass the ball forward if I’m not open or draw the two and find the opening.”

Rich, a junior, finished with four goals and an assist, while senior Emily McGrail celebrated her birthday with a hat trick.

For Wellesley, the loss marks the end of a pair of outstanding careers. Senior captain Blake Dietrick, headed to Princeton for basketball, finished with four goals and assist, while longtime coach Chris Molonea is retiring from coaching after a 30 years.

“We fought right the very end,” Molonea said. “I couldn’t any prouder of these kids. They never quit, never gave up.”

Westwood outlasts Medfield down the stretch

May, 11, 2011
MEDFIELD, Mass. -- For a while, we were looking at possibly uncharted territory. Then in a flash, it became business as usual.

With 20 minutes left in this girls lacrosse contest between the Tri-Valley League's two top stalwarts, Medfield closed juggernaut No. 1 Westwood's lead to one goal on a beautiful setup by its top attacker. Then the Wolverines flicked a switch, seemingly like they've done all season long, scoring six unanswered goals in the final 13 minutes to win going away, 13-6.

The Wolverines (13-0) are used to a high-octane style of play, having scored at least 14 or more goals in all of their wins this season. And with under four minutes to go in the first half, after dominating possession for much of the earlygoings, they showed off their scoring flair, rolling off three goals in a span of 1:12 -- two of them from junior Laura McHoul (four goals, assist) -- for a 6-2 lead.

But the Warriors (9-2) got a quick one just before the half, an Ally Slowe feed from star senior Katie Ott, and cut Westwood's lead to 6-5 when Kate Wasley took an Ott pass, curled around the back of the net to the left post and beat goalie Ann Lalley to the far side. Five minutes later, Katelyn Nochese again cut the Westwood lead to one, 7-6, taking a feed five yards in front of the net after Abby McQuillan took a ground ball 30 yards out.

"I think just primarily, we were playing scared, because it was a close game," Westwood head coach Leslie Frank said. "And we were playing basically not to attack the goal. People were shooting three to four shots and not scoring, so they were kinda getting timid. We can't ever allow that to happen. I told them we were defending well, and trapping well, so keep that up, and just kinda fix the offense."

Said junior Kate Rich, "We love playing Medfield. They bring a lot of fire, lot of intensity. So I think once we settled ourselves down and played our own game, that was what really started working for us."

Oh, it fixed itself alright. With breakout passes to their speedy frontline attackers in space, numerous free position opportunities, and a series of well-executed one-timers from behind the net, the Wolverines rattled off six goals over the last 13 minutes, starting with a free position goal from Rich (six goals, two assists) and followed up with a series of points from Rich, McHoul and Johns Hopkins commit Sarah Biron (two goals, assist).

But perhaps more importantly, it was the defense on Medfield's star attack, the Boston University-bound Ott, that made the difference. Sure, at the other end goalie Sarah Honan (12 saves) was impressive in her approach to low shots -- "We still tried going with our tried and true, going low, and it wasn't working," Frank said. But the Wolverines kept a face-guard on Ott in hopes of cutting off her lanes to the goal, and forcing her into settling for entry passes. Ott finished the evening with three assists, but no goals.

"You can't ever take one player and say she's the only one who does something, but I think you have to recognize someone like Katie Ott when we play against her," Biron said. "Our defense went in there, and we wanted to force her to a bad angle. We're going to push her out, and make her make the path instead of taking the shot."

Westwood downs Framingham by shocking margin

April, 21, 2011
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- This wasn’t your typical Westwood-Framingham girls lacrosse game.

Over the past decade, these perennial powers have tossed the title of best team in the state back and forth, with seven Division 1 titles between them (Westwood four, Framingham three).

But usually when one is on top of the other, the outcome is not as lopsided as it was Thursday, when the visiting Wolverines ran roughshod over the reeling Flyers, 15-2, avenging last year’s loss in the state semifinals to the eventual champions.

Midfielders Laura McHoul (five goals, assist), Sarah Biron (five goals) and Kate Rich (four goals, assist) paced the Wolverines offensively.

“I think it motivated us a lot,” Biron said of last year’s postseason loss to the Flyers. “Coming into this game, we all said to ourselves, ‘We remember what happened last year. Not this year. Not today.’”

Westwood (6-0) was simply better in every facet than Framingham, which has fallen to a very un-Flyer-like 2-3-1. The Wolverines held a 10-1 lead at the half and enjoyed a 10-goal, running-clock advantage over the hosts for nearly the entire second half. The hosts only had six shots on net, trying to shorten the game with a stall when they held possession.

“Westwood doesn’t let you make a mistake,” said Framingham coach Stacey Freda. “And I think maybe against other opponents you might have the ball back. We just know that you have one chance at it and if you give the ball up you’re not going to get it back.”

And Westwood took the ball early and often against the Flyers and capitalized on its chances. Biron and McHoul scored two and a half minutes apart early on and Rich added a free-position strike to make it 3-0 with 17:42 remaining in the first half. Emily McGrail (goal, three assists) popped in another a minute later and then set up Biron in transition after a long but fruitless Framingham possession to make it 5-0 with 11:12 to go.

McHoul sandwiched a pair of goals around a Rich free position to make it 8-0 with 8:06 left in the half before Framingham’s Rachel Igoe briefly halted the Wolverines’ momentum with a free-position goal with 2:53 left.

But that’s as close as the Flyers got, as McHoul buried a Jamison O’Neil pass with 2:29 left and Rich scored off a McGrail helper as time ran out in the first half with Westwood firmly in control, 10-1.

When Rich converted a quick-stick from McHoul 31 seconds into the second half, the clock kept running and the rout was on.

Sophia Agostinelli scored Framingham’s other goal, while second-half netminder Casey Curran made nine saves for the Flyers.

Overall, Westwood had 27 shots on cage.

But while her players acknowledged the revenge factor, Westwood coach Leslie Frank played it down.

“We don’t think about those things really,” she said. “It’s two brand-new teams. (Beating Framingham in the regular season but losing in the playoffs) has happened to us in the past, so I’ll mention that (to the team).”