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Who will step up to beat Westwood girls’ lacrosse?

As two-time defending Division 1 state champion, Westwood girls’ lacrosse sits atop the heap of an incredibly talented field of teams. Leslie Frank has established a legacy of excellence at Westwood during her tenure, achieving an impressive 291-24-5 record in 14 seasons.

Westwood is shooting for its seventh state title since 2003, and Frank will undoubtedly surpass 300 career wins en route to that goal, but the Wolverines have some big shoes to fill. They graduated six seniors, including three dominant offensive players in Kate Rich, Shelly Walsh, and Laura McHoul.

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“It’s hard when you graduate three top players, because everybody ran through them,” said Frank. “This group, although they are good, they are still trying to figure out who’s the go-to [player].”

Seniors Marina Burke and Meghan Kelly, three-year varsity players, will have an important leadership role on the field.

Fifteen juniors provide Westwood with depth as well as experience. Ela Hazar, Kasey Keane, Jamison O’Neill, Kelly Healey, and Kim Egizi are all returning varsity starters and are capable of playing any position, according to Frank.

The largest challenge the Wolverines face will probably be dealing with a bull’s-eye on their backs all season.

“We recognize how hard it is to play that way, when everybody’s gunning for you,’’ Frank said.

As far as top contenders to knock Westwood off its throne, the usual powerhouses of Framingham, Lincoln-Sudbury, and Needham are all in the mix.

Framingham is the only team besides Westwood to win a Division 1 state title since 2004. Lincoln-Sudbury won the North sectional last year before losing to Westwood, 11-9, in the state semifinals. Needham, which lost to Westwood in the South sectional final the past two years, returns Maddie Stenberg, one of the best attackers in the state.

The newcomer that’s generating buzz this year is Notre Dame Academy of Hingham. Meredith Frank, Leslie’s daughter, is entering her third season as head coach.

A Westwood alumna (’05), Meredith played four years on varsity for her mother before going on to play Division 1 lacrosse at Northwestern University.

Last year, the Cougars made it to the Division 1 South sectional semifinals, where they lost, 18-8, to Westwood.

Notre Dame has a strong senior class, led by Alex Dalton, who scored 87 goals last year. Seniors Mariel Teague, Amelia Brown, Julia Simmons, and Meg Ayers are also returning starters.

Medfield was the dark horse of last year’s Division 2 tourney, upsetting Winchester, 10-9, for its first state championship. The Warriors return All-Scholastic goalie Sarah Honan.

Winchester, which fell short in the Division 2 state final the past two years, returns seven seniors and three juniors.

Count on Wayland, Newburyport, and Duxbury to be among the top Division 2 schools, as well.

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