Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for July 16, 2021

July 16, 2021 — Game of the Year for lacrosse, 2021

The pandemic girls’ lacrosse season has changed the available pool of matches to consider for the best one of the season just past.

There were almost no interstate games this past spring. There were also very few interconference matches of note. And even in the postseason, you didn’t see quality competition in many states. Indeed, the semifinal and final rounds in Colorado had five of six games going to the running clock.

Indeed, it took all the way until the penultimate day of the domestic season until we saw the one game which had storylines, top players, and a thrilling finish

1. Westwood (Mass.) 6, Franklin (Mass.) 5
July 1, 2021
MIAA Division 1 final
So, let’s set the scene. Westwood is a team of great championship lineage, having won eight state championships. The Wolverine program has sent a number of players to Division I, such as Tewaaraton Award-winner Kristen Kjellman, Alex Frank, and Ela Hazar. The Wolverines, however, have not had a state championship since Margot Spatola took over for the legendary Leslie Frank five years ago.

About 15 miles away, Franklin (Mass.) has been on the front foot because of head coach Kristin Igoe, who has played with distinction for Boston College, the United States, and in pro lacrosse with the Boston Storm and the New England Command. Franklin was looking for its first state championship in 2021.

As it turns out, Spatola and Igoe were teammates at Boston College. Both Franklin and Westwood are located in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, just southwest of Boston. They were, however, seeded in different divisions for the state championship. The MIAA put Franklin in MIAA Division 1 East, and Westwood in MIAA Division I South. The tournament, because of the pandemic, took place in the last half of June and was to finish off the first weekend of July, the latest state championship final in girls’ lacrosse in at least 25 years.

Westwood, as is its wont, stamped its authority on the contest in the first 23 minutes, racing out to a 4-0 lead. But under volatile skies in the early summer, Franklin started a comeback, which culminated in Jamie Tanner’s game-tying goal with eight and a half minutes to go.

In a game played without a possession clock, draw controls and ball security were imperative. As if on cue, the heavens opened, pouring water on the Franklin home turf, the players, and spectators.

The teams played on. Westwood had the first good chance with a pass into the fan, but the ball was saved, and the rebound was shot wide. On the ground-ball pickup, Franklin drew a two-minute yellow card with 5:44 remaining.

Westwood had a chance on the man-up situation about halfway through the penalty, but the shot found the goalie stick of Brigid Earley. Franklin, off a timeout, gave up the ball deep in its third, which allowed Westwood to work the attack once more. Earley made a stop, whereupon Franklin saw out the penalty.

Franklin then had a chance to run out the clock to allow Westwood little to no opportunity to respond to a late goal. However, the Panthers went to goal within 30 seconds of getting the ball. Westwood then held the ball, allowing time to tick off the clock. The Wolverines’ Ava Connaughton, a sophomore, made an ill-advised pass into double-coverage, leading to a ground-ball pickup for Franklin. However, Franklin, in circling behind the goal cage, lost the ball. Connaughton, who was still following the play, caught the ball and saw that the Franklin goalie had left her crease to help with the clear.

Seizing her moment, Connaughton rounded the cage, sprawled to the ground, and shoveled a backhander past a closing Earley. There were 12 seconds on the clock, and the Wolverines had a 6-5 lead, which they were able to maintain after winning the final center draw.

This championship match, featuring a pair of neighborhood rivals and two coaches very familiar with each other, had everything you wanted in a game. It is therefore the Game of the Year for 2021.