WORCESTER — For the first time in program history, Notre Dame of Hingham captured the Division 1 girls’ lacrosse state championship.
The Cougars defeated Western Mass. champion Longmeadow, 13-10, at Foley Stadium in Worcester on Friday night.
“It seems surreal to me,” said Notre Dame Academy coach Meredith Frank. “This has 100 percent everything to do with my players. I am so proud of these girls.”
Frank won three state titles as a player at Westwood High before going on to play for Northwestern University, but this is her first championship as a coach.
“When I took over this program [in 2011] I thought this was something we could do,” she said. “If you work hard and you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.”
Notre Dame junior Isabella O’Connor scored 44 seconds into the game, but Cailin Pandolfi and Alexa Cambi notched two goals shortly after to give Longmeadow a 2-1 lead.
Action stalled on both ends until O’Connor, an All-American, finally broke through the Lancers’ stringent defense at 11:04 to tie it. Kelsey Bowen scored off an assist from freshman Charlotte Allard at 10:20 and senior All-American Alex Dalton tallied the Cougars’ fourth goal just 13 seconds later.
Longmeadow responded with goals by Lizzie Suschana and Krissy Shafer to tie the score, 4-4.
“When we go up one or two goals we know these good teams are going to come back at us,” said Frank. “We were doing a good job of making them slow down, but they just kept putting it in the net at the end of their possessions.”
With four minutes left in the half, Allard sparked a five-goal run that continued into the second half. O’Connor and Dalton both scored to give the Cougars a 7-4 lead at halftime.
“Momentum is key and there we did a great job, said Frank. “We went down and we clawed our way back and began to build a lead going into the half and then we made our first couple of shots beginning the second half.”
Two goals from Keeley MacAfee and one by Lexi Lennighan put Notre Dame up, 10-4, their largest lead, with 22:22 remaining. The Lancers fought their way back once more led by Shafer’s back-to-back goals, which seemed to put the Cougars on their heels — briefly.
Both teams scored three goals in the final 20 minutes.
“We’ve been preparing a lot in practice and we’ve played a lot of good teams all year,” said Notre Dame defender junior Mary Kensinger. “[Coach Frank] prepped us to dig deep and to endure.”
“Our practices were much, much worse than this,” said O’Connor, who led the Cougars in goals (four), shots on goal (seven), free position shots (four), and ground balls (five).
“From the beginning Isabella was focused and hungry for goals,” said Frank.
“This was the last game of the season and it was all or nothing,” said O’Connor.