For coach Leslie Frank and the Westwood girls’ lacrosse team, playing for a state championship is not unfamiliar territory.
But playing from behind is.
Although Westwood played from behind for much of the game, a surge in the final 11 minutes helped the top-ranked Wolverines overcome Longmeadow, 9-7, on Saturday at Boston University and win the Division 1 state title for the third time in four years.
From the opening draw, both teams were aggressive at Nickerson Field. Brooke Troy put Westwood (24-0) on the board first, five minutes into the game.
Then Longmeadow (20-2) responded.
The Lancers scored consecutive goals for a 2-1 lead. Ela Hazar answered with her first goal, giving Westwood the lead right after Colleen Burke had tied the game for the Wolverines at the 16:44 mark.
That would be the last time the Division 1 South champions would lead until the 11:11 mark in the second half.
Trailing, 5-4, at halftime, Westwood knew that it would have to find a way to regain the lead.
“I think when Longmeadow came out strong in that first half, [we] sort of made a decision at halftime to take better care of the ball offensively,” Frank said. “We weren’t giving our best shots, even though we were having good takes, they were just going right to the goalie’s stick.”
Hazar, the Wolverines’ top goal scorer, was held to just one goal in the first half but came out of the intermission more aggressive.
“[Hazar] needed to,” Frank said. “She needed to stop being the assist, she needed to take the game into her hands and she’s capable of doing it.”
Hazar’s second goal of the game, 52 seconds into the second half, tied the game 5-all.
Westwood tied it again for the sixth and final time, before Troy’s second goal gave Westwood a 7-6 advantage, its first lead since the first half.
Westwood then tacked on two more goals for good measure.
Frank acknowledged that grabbing the lead and not playing from behind late was a relief “only because we could then be smarter. You’re not playing catch up; you’re not taking some shots of panic or shots of worry to try to catch the team. You can really make sure that you can control the ball, and I think they did a great job.”
Though this isn’t Frank’s first title, she acknowledged that it’s a little bit sweeter than her previous state championships.
“It’s sweeter because I’ve been watching these guys since they were doing our youth clinic. They were in fourth and fifth grade, so sometimes I see them as they were, 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and I’m so proud of who they’ve become,” Frank said.