The Salem News
---- — Lax Lowdown
A seven-game win streak for the Marblehead girls lacrosse team isn’t hard to believe. The Magicians are traditionally one of the top teams on the North Shore, and they returned several players from a team that advanced to the Division 2 North semifinals last year.
Magicians’ coach Annie Pugh doesn’t take anything for granted, however.
Even with a strong, senior-laden team returning, Pugh knew it would take a lot of hard work and focus for Marblehead to continuously move toward becoming a better team every day.
Now, after the last seven contests, the Magicians are doing just that.
“We were nervous going into this season. We do have a lot of returning players; however, we lost Eliza Quigley to Phillips Andover and we have a really tough schedule,” said Pugh, whose team plays at Swampscott today. “We’ve risen to the occasion here and we’ve figured out our strengths and weaknesses and are working off that.”
Marblehead opened the season with a loss to Division 1 Acton-Boxboro but has since rolled out wins over Masconomet, Martha’s Vineyard, Manchester Essex, Peabody, Wilmington, Pentucket and Beverly.
The Magicians battled for narrow one-goal wins over Masconomet (11-10) and Manchester Essex (12-11), and Pugh feels like she has watched her team grow a little more with each passing game.
Marblehead has five seniors who will continue playing lacrosse in college next year, and juniors Emily Freedland, Sydney Cayen and Caroline Helmes have provided a huge boost to the lineup.
Cayen and Helmes have filled what Pugh considered two huge defensive holes coming into the season. ”We lost two starting defenders, but they’ve taken over on defense,” she said. “They’ve stepped up and taught some of the younger sophomores what to do. They are taking charge back there.”
Senior goalie Allie Forman, who will play at Bridgewater State next year, has also improved tremendously this spring.
That defense, combined with the outstanding play of fellow seniors Meggie Collins, Kiley Fischer, Tyler Phillips, Cassie Rodgers, Pamela Gregory and Alli Hanratty, has Marblehead playing at full tilt.
Collins (Trinity), Fischer (Babson), Phillips (Skidmore), and Rodgers (Colby) will be joining Forman as collegiate players next year.
Having a senior class like this one has made things a little easier for Pugh.
“This core group of seniors are leaders for us on the field and off the field. They are really paving the way for our program,” Pugh said. “They’ve dedicated time to youth clinics because they understand what it means to be part of the Marblehead lacrosse family, rather than being in it for themselves.”
The Magicians’ balance, especially on the offensive end, makes them very difficult to control. The team is averaging almost 16 goals per game in its last seven games.
“It’s not one person (scoring); it’s each and every one of them going out and doing their part. If someone is having an off day, they’re stepping up and bringing their best game,” Pugh said. “If their scoring isn’t working, then it’s their assist that we need. Everyone has been playing together for so long now that we can use a freelance attack, which is really difficult to defend.”
Pugh likes where he team is right now, but she knows a lot of ground has to be covered for the Magicians to reach their goals.
“We take each day and each game one at a time,” Pugh said. “We look to see what we need to improve on in each game, learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. Hopefully, that will take us late into the season.”
Marblehead started its seven-game win streak with a one-goal win over Masconomet earlier this season, and the Chieftains are showing that they will be a tough team the rest of the season, too.
Masconomet (4-2) battled a strong Concord-Carlisle team right down to the wire yesterday, but suffered their second loss. Sophomore goalie Lili Miller has been outstanding all season for the Chieftains. Senior Amy Arnold and junior Kathleen Gillespie have been consistently good for Masco on the offensive end.
“Lili has been keeping us in games,” Masco coach Alan McCarthy said. “Amy and Kathleen are big goal scorers, but they spread the ball around, too. Kathleen is a force in the midfield. She aggressively wins ground balls and draw controls. She’s a work horse out there.”
The St. John’s Prep lacrosse team is riding high, having won six straight games since opening the season with a loss to Xaverian. The Eagles most recent wins — over Walpole and Masconomet — brought the first Creator’s Crosse title back to Danvers, but coach John Roy felt like there was very little time to savor the moment.
St. John’s has a tough stretch of games including 6-1 St. John’s Shrewsbury today, a rematch with Xaverian Thursday, and a trip to 6-2 Hingham on Saturday.
Of course, that mini-stretch of games is only the second most difficult remaining on the Eagles’ schedule.
Four of the final six games of the regular season for St. John’s are against Needham, Lincoln-Sudbury, Duxbury and Medfield. Currently, according to Lax Power rankings, Needham is the fourth-ranked team in Massachusetts East, Lincoln-Sudbury is No. 1, Duxbury is third, and Medfield is second.
“It makes me think, ‘What am I doing to us?,’” Roy laughed.
The Eagles have clearly shown that they belong on the field with the best in the state, however. Lax Power has St. John’s ranked sixth in the East, and it’s the type of team that can play excellent defense and win the possession battle.
Lucas Bavaro, Tucker Mathers and Bryan Uva lead a strong, experienced defense, and Derek Osbahr is one of the best faceoff midfielders in the East. Juniors Drew O’Connell and Andrew Gallahue have helped the offense become a dangerous unit.
Peabody boys coach Anthony O’Donnell mentioned last week how much Nick Ouellette’s scoring makes it difficult for teams to defend Keifer Heckman. That relationship also seems to work the other way as well.
As of Sunday night, Heckman and Ouellette were the top two scorers in the Northeastern Conference. Heckman was leading with 33 goals and 23 assists for 56 points while Ouellette had produced 24 goals and 18 assists for 42 points.
Lax Lowdown, a column on North Shore high school lacrosse, runs each Tuesday during the spring sports season in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Matt Jenkins at 978-338-2648, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.