SUDBURY - Lincoln-Sudbury Regional girls’ coach Deb DeJesus has been hearing the same jealous comments from onlookers since 2009.
As she remembers it, the usual remark goes something like this: “Oh my God, you have those three [Madison Acton, Megan Griffin, and Rachel Sexton] for four years? How lucky are you?’’
Year by year, the Warriors - along with their three promising youngsters - have gotten better and better. In ’09, the season ended with a first-round elimination in the Division 1 North bracket.
In 2010, it was a final-round elimination. And last year, L-S won the D1 North before losing to Westwood in the state semifinals.
This spring though, the Warriors have perhaps their most talented team ever. They opened the season with a 13-12 stunner over Leslie Frank’s defending state champs at Westwood, and suddenly those whispers of a state championship are becoming much louder. A number of area coaches even see L-S as the favorite.
But all the added expectations and pressure coming from outside the fences of the turf field at Lincoln-Sudbury can’t match the pressure coming from within.
“This has to be the year,’’ said Acton, now a senior planning on playing at perennial national power Duke in the fall. “State championship and nothing less. Or we won’t graduate.’’
The five seniors on the squad - Acton, Griffin, Sexton, Sarah Ganio, and Codi Quirk - are not only all committed to play college lacrosse, they also consider themselves best friends.
But there is one issue.
“They can’t do everything on their own,’’ DeJesus said of the seniors. “And I’ve said that - we can’t just be a three-girl team. We can’t. We’ve been like that before in the past where we’ve had incredible talent, but it’s important that we have everyone else surrounding them and that they use everybody. They can’t just use one another.
“And there have been years and times where they’ve tried to do that. They’re teenage girls - you know how it is.’’
It’s also a product of having tremendously talented athletes.
Acton, a standout soccer player and runner on the indoor track team, has been an electric goal scorer on the lacrosse field for the Warriors, having spent time on the US Under-19 women’s national team.
She can routinely be found near the L-S turf, hurling lacrosse balls off what the students call “The Wall,’’ even though Sexton says Acton is “so good that she doesn’t need to keep working, but she does - every day.’’
DeJesus said Acton has matured, learned how to handle the pressure, and now tries to make everyone else around her better.
“Maddy is really focused,’’ the coach said. “Mentally, she’s tougher this year.’’
What Acton brings to the Warriors in athleticism and decision-making, Sexton delivers through her personality.
While DeJesus calls Acton the “horse of the team,’’ Sexton, who is now back at full strength after offseason shoulder surgery, is the “heart and soul.’’
“With Rachel, the best way to describe her is her mental game,’’ Acton said. “If she wants something, it’s going to happen. Rachel gets what she wants.’’
The 5-foot-5 midfielder never showed her desire more than in the final minutes of the Westwood game, when her on-ball defense shut down the Wolverines’ last effort to tie the score.
Add to the equation a healthy Griffin (who missed most of last season; headed to Middlebury), Ganio (Quinnipiac), Quirk (one of the faster defenders in the area; headed to Trinity), her junior sister Abby (a pure distributor; headed to Vanderbilt) along with other surrounding pieces, and it’s easy to see why L-S could be the best girls’ lacrosse team in the state.
The challenge will be maintaining team cohesiveness and spreading the ball around, even if the Warriors are behind late in games.
And that load will fall on DeJesus, who nearly called an end to her 12-year coaching career last winter after the death of her brother, Paul, a frequent presence on the L-S sidelines and an inspiration to DeJesus.
“I feel my brother is with me all the time,’’ DeJesus said, looking toward the sky.
“There have already been things that happened this year where I’ve been like, ‘Thanks Paul.’ ’’
A trio of trends
There have been three noticeable trends around the area, some old, some new.
First, the transition from hockey to lacrosse continues to be frequently successful, headlined by Franklin junior Kaitlyn Spillane.
A hockey player at heart, Spillane has started every lacrosse game since her freshman year. Her coach, Chris Schmidt, believes she could probably play Division 1 lacrosse if she wasn’t dedicated to the ice.
The second trend is the steady increase in freshmen making varsity rosters.
“Typically, we run on experience, but that’s not the case this year,’’ said Framingham coach Stacey Freda.
And the third trend is more play against out-of-state opponents. Teams from areas of the country that are rich with lacrosse talent, like upstate New York and Long Island, are willing to make long trips to play better competition, and vice versa. Medfield and Needham were set to play Cold Spring Harbor, a top-10 program out of Section 8 in New York, this week.