The matchup against host Framingham High was not lacking in drama for the Winchester High girls’ lacrosse team.
The Sachems trailed early and rallied twice.
They built a lead and watched it slip away — twice.
They roared out of intermission with five consecutive goals to create some breathing room, before holding off a late rally by the Flyers, to win, 10-8.
It was the ideal mix of game situations that Winchester is seeking against formidable Division 1 opponents.
The bounce-back performance could not have come at a better time for the Sachems (8-2), who came off a rough week that included tough losses to perennial Division 1 powers Westwood (18-3) and Duxbury (19-6).
It has been a roller-coaster ride after their 6-0 start, but coach Suzanne Ontso’s club has embraced the challenge of preparing for a whole new level of competition.
After nearly a decade of dominance in Division 2 — which includes appearances in eight of the last nine state finals — Winchester was moved up to Division 1 by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
“Honestly, we don’t even talk about it that much,” Ontso said. “It’s in the back of their minds because our goal is still the same. . . . [It] doesn’t matter which division we’re in.”
The transition will not take full effect until the start of the state tournament, but Ontso did beef up the regular-season schedule with tougher Division 2 crossover games (Marblehead), along with matches against Division 1 foes like Duxbury, Newton North, and Framingham.
“Teams like Westwood and Duxbury, they’re so explosive and can score at will,” Ontso said. “There’s a big difference between those teams; and that’s why we have them on our schedule.”
“We might not be successful right now in the first half of the season, but hope is we’re learning something so we’ll be in a better position. . . . We’ll take those lumps as we figure things out.”
Senior captains Alaina Ewing (midfield) and Alexis Miller (attack) are adapting to this season’s learning curve.
“It’s very important to prove to ourselves that we can do this against those types of teams,” Ewing said.
Added Miller: “To the teams we’ve lost to, we know we can do so much better. Maybe we didn’t do it that day, but we can do it tomorrow.”
Of the 10 returnees from last season, five seniors have been through a pair of runs to the state finals. That experience — regardless of the level of competition — is beneficial.
“The state championships have prepared us for what the most important game of our season will look like,” Miller said.
“We know what it feels like to be under that pressure and how mentally prepared we need to be.’’
The stakes are higher, but the Sachems are not intimidated.
“They know what it takes; but they still have to go out and do it,” Ontso added.
“Now it’s going to be even harder. . . . But they’re not willing to settle for anything less.”
Austin Prep, Ipswich
grab the spotlight
Winchester’s move up has created an open field for contenders in Division 2.
Ipswich has been eliminated by Winchester in two of the last three Division 2 North finals.
The Tigers are off to a 7-1 start, but second-year coach Nicole Linehan does not believe that Winchester’s new status affects her program.
“I don’t think my girls necessarily think that since Winchester’s gone, we’re one step closer,” Linehan said. “There’s still a full season to be played and each game is no different.”
Ipswich lost to Cape Ann League foe Manchester-Essex in the quarterfinal last season.
Senior captain Olivia Moutevelis paces an explosive offense (13.5 points per game) alongside fellow senior captain Claire Gardner .
In her fourth year on the varsity, Moutevelis would like a third crack at the North final.
“We think that we can get there again,” Moutevelis said.
“We’ll be ready for anybody, and I’m sure they’ll be ready for us.’’
At Austin Prep, the Cougars (9-1) are off to the program’s best start in seven years.
First-year coach Liz Richards believes that Winchester’s jump has created an opening for every contender.
“That’s huge,” Richards said. “That changes everything with that move. It’s absolutely open to any one of the top 10 teams right now.”
Her team has entered contender status, and she gives all the credit to its unity.
The Cougars’ team motto can be found on Twitter. Her players constantly tweet ‘hash-tag 21’, representing the number of players, and ‘hash-tag one,’ in honor of one team.
“They all believe in each other and rally behind one another nonstop,” Richards said. “That’s the best part about all of this.”
St. John’s Prep surges
St. John’s Prep is beginning to find its midseason stride.
After a rough 1-4 start that included two overtime losses to Boston College High and Xaverian Brothers, the Eagles (5-5) rattled off three consecutive wins.
Their latest victory, a 12-9 win over Masconomet, came in the Creator’s Cross championship game on Saturday, a tournament St. John’s Prep has now won in back-to-back seasons.
“Winning is contagious, just the same way that losing is,” said coach John Roy.
“Stringing these wins together is a huge confidence boost for all aspects of the game: defense, special teams, and offense.”
The Eagles’ schedule only gets tougher in the upcoming week; featuring rematches with BC High and Xaverian, along with an anticipated tilt against Needham.
Knights, Ghosts tie
North Andover and Westford met Saturday night for their long-awaited rematch of last year’s girls’ Division 1 North final.
The back-and-forth battle ended in a 9-9 tie; an anticlimactic outcome.
The Grey Ghosts (8-1-1) led, 6-4, at half before the Scarlet Knights (9-0-1) scored the equalizer with just under two minutes left in regulation.
“Everyone was definitely fired up and ready to play this one,” North Andover coach Meredith Prior said. “Saturday night, 7 p.m., under the bright lights. . . . It was one of our best games this season.”
“We just went out and wanted to show everyone what we can do,” Prior added.
“It was another big test and I think we rose to the challenge.”
Westford coach Julie Olivier admitted that the annual regular-season meeting has “traditionally been a neck-and-neck game.”
“They were disappointed last night but I like that,” she added. “That means they’re hungry; that’s a good thing.”