NEEDHAM - If coaches could be considered clutch, judged the same way athletes were on how well they performed with everything was on the line, Leslie Frank would be the Michael Jordan of girls’ lacrosse.
But if there was another team constructed, coached, and conditioned well enough to compete with Westwood on the big stage this spring, Needham might have been it.
The Rockets gave it their best shot in Friday’s Division 1 South championship game. They controlled the first 15 minutes, charging out to a 5-2 lead in front of a roaring home crowd, but then it all crumbled. For the fifth straight year, Frank’s squad ended Needham’s season, rallying for a 12-9 win.
Rockets coach Beth O’Brien, a protégé of Frank’s who might be hitting her coaching stride, having led her team to a 19-1 regular season and its first No. 1 seed, was asked if it was near-impossible to outplay Westwood for more than 15 minutes in the postseason.
“Absolutely,’’ O’Brien said, trying to shake off another defeat to Frank, who has beaten her in every tournament game when they’ve been on opposite sides.
That might be the most difficult thing to do in Massachusetts high school sports. And it hasn’t happened in the Division 1 South bracket in more than five years.
“It’s not impossible,’’ said Frank. “It’s not magic. You just have a group of girls that works together week after week after week. I want no credit. And I haven’t even lost my voice yet, so clearly I’m not working hard enough.’’
Needham served Westwood a 12-10 defeat May 10, the Rockets’ first win over the Wolverines in at least 10 years. And for the first 15 minutes on Friday, the Rockets looked as if they might pull off the double.
The offense scored on every possession but two and sophomore sensation Annee O’Connor made some of the biggest stops she might ever make, stoning three free position attempts by Boston College-bound midfielder Katie Rich.
But Frank called a timeout with 7:18 left in the half and the Wolverines were a completely different team afterward, finding wide-open cutters for easy putaways and swarming Needham ball-carriers with two, three, and even four defenders to regain possessions.
Westwood finished on a 10-4 run. Rich had four goals while Laura McHoul added two goals and four assists.
“They train to play 50 minutes,’’ O’Brien said. “That’s the bottom line. We train to play 50 minutes, too, but sometimes they play 50 minutes harder.’’
Westwood will play Lincoln-Sudbury for the Division 1 Eastern Mass. crown on Monday at Babson College at 5 p.m., and Deb DeJesus will surely have her Warriors (23-1) ready for that one.
Because until Frank calls an end to her magnificent career, coaches will continue to rack their brains for some way to best her in the postseason.
The scary part is, there may not be an answer.