NEWTON — Beth O’Brien was furious.
On Monday afternoon, her Needham High girls held a 14-11 cushion on Newton North with four minutes to play — not the comfortable lead the coach was hoping for against a speedy, scrappy Tigers squad capable of mounting a comeback.
O'Brien yelled across the field for a timeout, rounded up her players and expressed her discontent.
The message: The Rockets were stinking it up.
Their next game would be do-or-die in the state tournament, and the coach demanded that the next four minutes be their best four minutes of the season.
Tory Waldstein made sure it happened.
“That's the difference between her and some other very good players,’’ said O’Brien. “She has the ability to turn it around, compose herself, and help her teammates both on attack and defense. Really just takes control of the situation.’’
Here’s how the final minutes played out: Newton North gained possession off the draw and drove down to the attacking end of the field. As the ball-carrier tried driving toward the cage, Waldstein slid off her mark and took a clean hack to swipe the ball.
The Rockets then sprinted across the turf and set up near the Newton North goal, where O’Brien was calling for strategic clock management. Waldstein held possession at the top of the circle and stood motionless for approximately 10 seconds. Maddie Stenberg cut across the crease, and before she had time to lift her stick in the air, Waldstein had already passed it her way. Stenberg scored easily.
The final minutes were more of the same: Waldstein was relentless on defense while acting as the orchestrator on the attack. She even flashed a little bit of magic (a little bit of competitiveness, too) with less than a minute left when she dodged through a pair of defenders and sent a quick bounce-shot into the net.
The Rockets won, 17-11, and ended the regular-season portion of their schedule with a perfect record, 19-0. (They suffered a loss to a team from New York, Cold Spring Harbor, that went undefeated this season.)
Everything that has happened with the Rockets this season is still a little bit of a surprise.
It was just two years ago that the conversation was focused on figuring out how to advance in the MIAA tournament past the Division 1 South semifinals. Needham had been ousted in the semis four consecutive seasons. But O’Brien’s 10 years of coaching experience have really started to shine through of late, and Waldstein has provided some particularly well-crafted evidence.
Four years ago, she was a tall, lanky basketball and soccer star who never thought she’d enjoy lacrosse enough to want play it after high school. “I was never that serious about it,’’ she said.
But O'Brien saw the athleticism and, perhaps more importantly, her intelligence.
“It’s not only book smart,’’ said O’Brien, alluding to Waldstein’s commitment to attend Harvard in the fall. “She’s wicked lacrosse smart. She understands everything.’’
During Monday’s game, O’Brien said, Waldstein “noticed a problem with our transition. And we do all our stickwork in patterns, so everything goes outside, in, outside, down. But today we just tried to go straight down the field and that killed us. And she’s the one that pointed that out.’’
Waldstein played defense her freshman year while trying to improve her stick skills. And though O’Brien predicts she’ll play only defense while at Harvard, Waldstein’s success in transitioning to a midfielder has been impossible to ignore.
She is the Bay State Conference MVP, an Under-Armour All-American, and a big reason why Needham should be the favorite to win their division’s state title this spring.
But it’s not just Waldstein.
Goalie Annie O'Connor has only gotten better during her sophomore campaign, and she’s playing in front of a defensive unit that’s fifth in the state in goals-against average (6.4 per game). Senior Shelby Aubin (Georgetown commit) and sophomore Catherine Conley join Waldstein in the midfield, while Stenberg leads a potent attacking unit. With a win over Westwood already on Needham's resume, there’s little doubt that the Rockets could beat anyone.
Aubin offers a simple recipe: “If we want it more than the other team and show it in how we play, we'll win every game.’’
No goals, but Roddy
has impact for Medfield
Conor Roddy didn’t score a goal in Medfield’s 14-7 drubbing of Dover-Sherborn to regain a share of the Tri-Valley League title last Friday. He’s still not fully recovered from a concussion that sidelined him for four weeks.
But even in a game where Roddy didn’t put the ball in the net, his impact was quite noticeable.
Dover-Sherborn sophomore defenseman Zach Ambrosino , whom coach Brian McLaughlin speaks very highly of, spent the entire game shadowing the Warriors’ attackman. That only opened things up for the rest of the Medfield offense.
Focusing on Roddy kept Ambrosino occupied, “and he’s their best pole,’’ said Medfield senior attack Calvin Given . Roddy, who dished out three assists, “is just really good at making the offense flow better,’’ Given said.
“He doesn't have to score goals to make an impact,’’ said Mike Douglas one of the team’s two head coaches. “Just having him on the field is a game-changer.’’
back by Wellesley
Not that the Wellesley boys needed the boost, having allowed just two goals over the previous three games combined through Monday, but the squad welcomed Adam Horelick returning from a concussion.
Horelick was sidelined after taking a bone-crunching hit against Medfield on May 3. He had been a pleasant surprise for the Raiders attacking unit that was searching for answers early in the season.
“He’s still not back to the full form, but we’ll take whatever we can get from him,’’ said coach Rocky Batty . “He's still has a lot to offer.’’