IPSWICH — The matchup was circled in red during the preseason.
Marblehead at Ipswich: May 13.
For the Magicians seniors, who had absorbed three straight regular-season beatings by Ipswich, the showdown was their showcase.
And the game was even more magnified given Marblehead’s marvelous play of late. After suffering a loss in the season opener against Acton-Boxborough, the Magicians had ripped off 13 straight victories.
But Ipswich, which lost to Winchester in last year’s Division 2 North final, was the true test.
Marblehead failed to score in the game’s first 11 minutes. The Tigers’ best player, John Hopkins-bound senior Natalie Soliozy, was playing tight defense, but quietly, Marblehead senior Tyler Phillips spearheaded a run that was overlooked by most spectators. Her two quick goals in the final four minutes of the first half chipped the deficit to 6-3 at the break.
And at the start of the second half, she was unstoppable.
After winning the opening draw control, she galloped down the field, her orange hair blazing behind her as defenders could only watch her whip through the defense, break for the net, and score just 14 seconds in. And only 58 seconds later, she netted her fourth consecutive — and third unanswered — goal to close the gap to 6-5.
The next 10 minutes were truly a battle.
The Tigers roared further ahead, 8-5, but Marblehead stormed back on two straight goals from Emily Freedland to cut the deficit to 8-7. Then came a goal from senior captain Meggie Collins for an 8-all deadlock.
Eight minutes later, Phillips came through again with her fifth goal of the game to give Marblehead its first lead of the afternoon, 9-8, with 3:12 left.
Suddenly, three years of near-unattainable hope was within reach — the Magicians had never tied the Tigers in recent memory, let alone beaten Ipswich.
“All I was thinking the whole time was ‘we’ve lost to them three years straight.’ We never tied, never won, and I was not going to let that happen. Regardless of if it was a tie or not, we weren’t going to lose,” said Phillips, who will play lacrosse at Skidmore next year.
With just 12 seconds left, Ipswich senior captain Brigid O’Flynn raced up the field and whipped a shot through Marblehead goalie Allie Forman at the buzzer to tie the game.
It was a heart-breaking finish for the Magicians.
But the Magicians still believe that the tie was a turning point.
“We knew what we had to do to come into this game. Everything had to click at once,” said Collins. “Now we know we can beat them, we have it in us, and we want it 10 times more than we did before.”
Forman, a senior, was pivotal for Marblehead. Studying her defenders like a chess player, she directed traffic in front and came through when needed, finishing with 14 saves.
“Allie Forman deserves the credit, she was amazing. She keeps us in the tough ones,” said Collins.
And the players are quick to credit coach Annie Pugh, now in her sixth season. She encourages a fun culture, and is able to push her players in ways others may not.
A fifth-grade math and science teacher at the Village School in Marblehead, Pugh has known several of her players since she had them in elementary school.
“We learn from every mistake, we celebrate every success, and we take absolutely nothing for granted,” said Pugh, who played for Stony Brook after graduating from Pentucket Regional. “It’s a special relationship you’re able to have with the kids and kind of be that role model for them in and out of the classroom.”
Pugh said she calls her father, longtime Masconomet football coach Jim Pugh, after every game to analyze, dissect, and talk coaching.
“It definitely starts with Annie; she can relate to us,” said senior captain Cassie Rodgers .
Everything is clicking for the Magicians. Though they did not beat Ipswich, a weight has been lifted.
Billerica girls bounce back from tough start
After losing four of their first six games to begin the season, the Billerica girls (7-5-0) have bounced back for a final push they hope will result in a state tournament berth.
After losing three straight in mid-April, the Indians responded with a 5-1 stretch, including a 12-11 victory over a competitive Central Catholic squad.
During the resurgence, the Indians won by an average of six goals per game. In a 16-9 victory over Haverhill, senior Lindsay Whiteway scored five goals, including her 300th.
Odd and ends
St. John’s Prep won its fifth straight by edging Westford 14-13. . . . Central Catholic captain Colleen Slein will attend the Air Force Academy next year, where she could play club lacrosse if she wishes to continue her playing career. . . . Haverhill’s Kristy Robertson is up to 68 goals on the season, netting eight more in a 18-7 win over Tewksbury.Pat Bradley can be reached at email@example.com.