CHELMSFORD — As the postseason progresses, an inevitable fact comes to light — a team’s fate becomes dependent on its improvement as opposed to whoever the opponent on the other side may be.
It’s a daunting fact that the fourth seeded Marblehead girls lacrosse team understood and exemplified with maturity beyond their years during Tuesday’s Division 1 North semifinal against top seeded Reading.
Senior captain Lydia Bongiorno scored five goals, including the game-winner to snap the final tie of the evening, as the Magicians took down the Rockets, 12-11.
Fellow senior captain Grace Arthur tallied two scores for Marblehead, as did sophomore Maddie Erskine and junior Grace Doody, while Sara Campbell also tallied for the winners.
“That was as nerve-wracking as it gets,” said Marblehead assistant coach Shannon Beaton of her team’s victory. “We’ve been talking about how important the first five minutes of each game are and it’s something that we’ve struggled with, truthfully. But these playoffs the girls have been showing up to play every day, and I’m so proud of everyone.”
With this triumph, Marblehead (now 16-5) advances to Friday’s sectional final against No. 2 seed Chelmsford (19-4).
Captains Anie Miglore, Amanda Schillinger, Campbell, Arthur and Bongirono have certainly shown that, but junior defender Bella Peters and sophomore goalie Elizabeth Driscoll proved to be the difference in this semifinal matchup.
Peters, who started just one game all season, was given the tall task of guarding Reading’s scoring star and senior captain, Alexander Palmero, for the majority of the game. Under her watch, Peters shadowed her wherever she roamed and held her to a mere two goals in the process.
Meanwhile, Driscoll turned away nine shots in the victory and continues to elevate her performance as the tournament progresses.
“I could tear up just talking about Bella,” said an emotionally candid Beaton. “She’s an incredible athlete and is so poised. She showed everyone how special of a player she can be.”
“I think we’re the best team in the MIAA right now,” said a confident Peters after the win. “We have the potential to win it all because everyone shows up and works their (butts) off every game or practice, and we have the best goalie (Elizabeth Driscoll). We’re all so close and have the talent to do it.”
After falling behind 1-0, Marblhead never trailed the rest of the way thanks to a scoring burst that put them ahead, 6-1, after 15 minutes. The sequence mirrored the previous postseason meeting between these programs last spring; Reading opened up the game with a 5-0 lead and eventually went on to defeat the Magicians at Piper Field.
“There was redemption at stake for these girls,” admitted Beaton. “And they showed again how great of a group they are. They wanted it today, and clearly we have a lot more to play for in the next couple of weeks.”
The Rockets did crawl their way to a two-goal deficit at halftime and tied it up at 11-11 inside the final minutes, but Bongiorno’s goal put the Magicians up for good after a last-ditch offensive flurry for Reading came up short.
Marblehead will for the right to represent the North in the Division 1 State bracket. The Magicians haven’t faced Chelmsford this spring, but have taken on North Andover and lost in convincing fashion 11-5.