WESTFORD — One thing an underdog team can ill afford to do in postseason play is to take an overly cautious approach in the opening minutes of an elimination game.
That’s especially true if it’s girls lacrosse and your opponent is top-seeded Westford Academy.
Masconomet was upset-minded — and showed it by having some brilliant stretches — but it never recovered from a slow start in which it gave up five goals in the first three minutes en route to a 19-9 loss to the Grey Ghosts in the Division 1 North semifinals.
The Chieftains, who scored more goals and played Westford tougher than any other team the Grey Ghosts have faced in the tourney, closed out the season with a 17-6 record.
If Masconomet lived in some sort of sports fantasy world and could replay this one, it would undoubtedly come out of the gate much more aggressively than it did yesterday. It appeared the Chieftains were giving Westford and its star player, Villanova-bound Bailey Mongillo, too much respect in the early going. As a result, the hosts cruised to a 10-5 halftime lead and had an answer every time Masco made a threatening run at them.
“I told our girls to be like the Bruins and take command early,” said Westford Academy (22-1) coach Julie Oliver, showing her knowledge of what’s happening in the NHL playoffs. “I wanted our kids to set the tempo and play at that pace for the entire game.
“I have to give Masco credit. They adjusted. We must’ve won the first 10 faceoffs, but they adjusted and played well. But in three tournament games, we’ve outscored our opponents 53-14. Our kids have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing.”
For sure, Masconomet had its moments. The Chieftains didn’t panic when they were down 5-0 or 8-1. They sliced the deficit to 8-4 late in the first half on goals by Amy Arnold, Kathleen Gillespie and Rebecca Phillips, but Westford scored a pair of goals in the final 53 seconds before intermission, more than offsetting one by Masco’s Rachel Rogal, for the 10-5 cushion.