Marblehead High's girls lacrosse program can make history against Chelmsford in the Division 1 North final.
A victory against the No. 2 seeded Lions (19-4) Friday (5:30 p.m.) at Chelmsford Memorial High School would give the Magicians (16-5) their second sectional title under veteran head coach Annie Madden. The potential banner would also be the first captured in the Division 1 North circles, as the Northeastern Conference powerhouse moved into the MIAA's highest order last spring.
"It's the best feeling in the world," said senior captain Grace Arthur of her fourth seeded squad. "We haven't made it this far since our freshman season when we won the title. Being a senior makes this way more special — the underclassmen know how much this means to us, and it's motivated them to work even harder."
The Magicians sport an elite class of seniors who've spread their impact throughout the rest of the program. Captains Lydia Bongiorno and Arthur combined for 201 points while fellow captain/defender Amanda Schillinger has forced 14 turnovers and collected 21 draws. Marblehead also holds a perfect 9-0 mark when midfield captain Sara Campbell scores two-plus points in a contest.
However, the back-to-back NEC champs have received elevated play from nearly all of their underclassmen stars — a big reason why this will be their first sectional clash since 2016.
Sophomore attacker Maddie Erskine racked up 81 points, with 50-plus goals and 20-plus helpers during the regular season, and has rifled nine postseason goals into the back of enemy cages. Sophomore defenders Molly Forbes and Josie Poulin are also key components in a Magician defensive unit that's given up just 9.5 goals/game in the playoffs along with goalie Elizabeth Driscoll and her 29 tournament saves.
"They've seen how hard the senior class has worked during their time here and are trying to emulate that work ethic," said assistant coach Shannon Beaton. "It's really a testament to their passion because living up to this class is a hard thing to do ... but they are doing it and having fun."
The Division 1 North crown won't be easy to come by as the Magicians are set to face an equally battle-tested program. Chelmsford head coach Ashley Rokas took over the helm four years ago when current senior captains Erin Green and Kate Petka were freshmen in a season that came to a brutal halt.
"We were the ninth seed and lost (to North Andover, 17-3) and knew we needed to put in work if we wanted to get to the top," Rokas saids. "(Green and Petka) know what it's like to build from the bottom up; they've had a huge impact on the new culture of CHS lacrosse."
Since then, the Lions amassed a 59-12 record and are the defending Division 1 North champions after a 22-win campaign last spring.
Dethroning the current sectional champs on their home turf is as difficult a challenge as you can get, but yet it comes as just another opportunity for Marblehead to continue its special season.
"As a former player I know it's a little cliche," said Beaton, a Pentucket alumnus who went on to score 17 career goals at Bates College. "But it's just to go out and have fun. It's a game at the end of the day, and I think it's one of the best ones you can play. They've been doing it all year, so I'm confident they'll enjoy the moment when Friday night comes around."
MARBLEHEAD BY THE NUMBERS
Goals For: 291 (13.85 per game)
Goals Against: 195 (9.3 pg)
Offensive Leaders: Grace Arthur (60 goals, 70 assists, 130 points); Maddie Erskine (57-24-81); Lydia Bongiorno (58-13-71)
Fielding Leaders: Lydia Bongiorno (27 ground balls, 21 takeaways); Amanda Schillinger (21-14); Grace Arthur (21-11); Josie Poulin (14-13) Mae Colwell (16-11); Brigette Gable (19 GB), Molly Forbes (9 TA)
Draw Leaders: Lydia Bongiorno (92 draw wins); Maddie Erskine (53); Grace Arthur (44); Brigette Gable (28)
Goaltending Leaders: Elizabeth Driscoll (314 shots on goal, 140 saves, .445%, 16-5)