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    HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS’ LACROSSE NOTES

    Sticking with a three-team race in the Middlesex Liberty

    May 15, 2018 -- Lexington , MA - Lexington no. 3. Abby Cheng gets chased by Woburn's no. 13 Georgie Santullo left, and no 26.Emma LaRusso, at Lexington vs. Woburn girls' high school lacrosse. (Joanne Rathe/ Globe Staff)
    Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
    Lexington’s Abby Cheng slices between Woburn’s Georgie Santullo (left) and Emma LaRusso in Tuesday’s Middlesex Liberty matchup in Lexington.

    With the end of the regular season in sight, conference and league races are coming into focus.

    In the Middlesex League’s Liberty Division, the Lexington (12-3), Woburn (12-3), and Winchester girls’ lacrosse teams (12-2) are all in contention for the title.

    Last season, they all shared a piece.

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    After winning 17 of its first 18 games last season, Lexington jumped out to another hot start this spring.

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    “Playing for this team has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in high school,” said Lexington senior captain Lauren O’Keefe.

    “It’s where I have found my confidence in high school. We are always together in the team room in the morning hanging out and talking about our next game. Our chemistry off the field helps us on the field.”

    O’Keefe has anchored a Lexington defensive unit that limited Winchester to eight goals in a 13-8 victory on April 24.

    “Team defense has been our strongest focus this season,” said second-year coach Stacey Freda.

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    “If everyone can be on the same page, it gives us a chance to win games and hold our goals against average low. We always feel like we have a chance to beat some of the stronger teams we face.”

    The Minutemen began the spring 3-0 in the Middlesex League Liberty.

    But, their quest for an undefeated conference slate ended on Tuesday in a 15-8 loss to Woburn (4-0 Liberty).

    The Tanners were spurred by junior Lexi Palmisano , who registered her second straight six-goal game.

    “We have a group of seniors that have been on the team since freshman year and every year we have competed for the title,” said Woburn coach Maggie Meagher .

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    “With Lexington having no losses in the league, this was a huge game. Each year we have at least shared [the title], and these seniors really wanted to have four years of going after the league title.”

    This year, Woburn is in the driver’s seat, and controls its own destiny.

    However, the Tanners will need to get past Winchester on Friday to secure the title.

    “The pressure is on [Woburn] to beat us to win it outright,” said Winchester coach Suzanne Ontso , whose squad was dealt its only league loss by Lexington.

    “Our league is so strong so it’s always a great matchup when we go head-to-head,” Ontso said.

    “It’s what we need getting ready for the tournament because we will see a lot of those same teams.”

    And if Winchester beats Woburn and Lexington takes care of Reading the same afternoon, Lexington, Winchester, and Woburn will share the title, each at 4-1.

    Quick sticks

      Walpole was a Division 2 finalist last season, falling to Cohasset in the final. But no one could have predicted a 14-0 start for the fourth-ranked Rebels, not after the graduation of nine seniors, in addition to the program transitioning up to D1 this spring.

    Not even coach Mike Tosone.

    “I didn’t think that, going into the year, we’d be quite ready to perform at this level,” he said. “They’ve done a better job than I could’ve dreamed of, quite frankly.”

    But there were a number of talented returnees, such as senior attack Emily Curtis (68 goals, 37 assists), and her classmate, midfielder Celia Walsh (47 goals, 38 assists, 29 draw controls).

    Tosone’s daughter, Audra, a junior, has been a force in the circle with 71 draw controls, in addition to 34 goals and 36 assists.

    Two more players has surpassed 60 points this season in sophomore Sydney Scales (32 goals, 35 assists, 79 draw controls) and junior Nikki Griffin (38 goals, 27 assists).

    “Obviously there was some concern that the holes [the seniors] left behind would be too big to fill,” Tosone said. “I have got to hand it to the kids who have filled those roles.”

    Tosone noted that many of the Rebels’ upperclassmen have waited their time to get an opportunity. And they may well have been forced to play at a program with less pedigree.

    Walpole owns wins over sixth-ranked Needham, the defending state champion, as well as No. 10 Wellesley, and No. 11 Franklin.

    “Those are tug of wars, you could flip a coin as to who wins it,” Tosone said. “I’m glad we were on the correct side of the ledger.”

    The Rebels have a rematch against Needham on Monday, along with a game Wednesday against Foxborough from the Hockomock.

     The lone other unbeaten is Newburyport (15-0) in Division 2.

    Coach Catherine Batchelder noted that her program made it a point to schedule more games this season, and to take on stiffer competition.

    “We were excited for the challenge,” she said, adding that the team was particularly excited to earn an 11-8 win over Division 1 power Lincoln-Sudbury (10-4).

    “We have our toughest games coming up,” she said.

    “We need to make sure that we’re mentally prepared to finish the season strong and go into the postseason playing our best lacrosse.”

    The points leader for the Clippers is standout sophomore Maggie Pons , who has racked up 67 goals and 42 assists. Senior Molly Rose Kearney has netted 59 goals and 33 assists and classmate Hannah Schilling (26 goals, 27 assists) is contributor too.

    Goalie Molly Laliberty has accrued a whopping 125 saves (.661 save percentage) through 15 games, allowing 4.5 goals per game.

    Newburyport edged Ipswich, 15-11, in last year’s North final before falling to Cohasset in the state semis. Batchelder said her team is preparing for any opponent.

    “You never know who is going to win in the postseason,” she said.

    “Everyone plays their best lacrosse at that stage, it comes down to a couple of plays that make a really big difference.”

    Players of the Week

    Maya Dube, Chelmsford — In a busy week for the eighth-ranked Lions (13-2), the senior captain recorded 12 goals and seven assists in four wins. In the first two games, big wins over MVC rivals Central Catholic (17-9) and Andover (16-5), she also accrued 12 draw controls.

    Tatum LaRochelle, Sandwich — The sophomore accrued 16 total points in back-t0-back wins for the Blue Knights (8-3) last week, with four goals and four assists against Nauset (17-5), and then three goals and five assists against Plymouth North (13-7).

    Abi Moynihan, Apponequet — The junior midfielder tallied 16 goals and nine assists for the 17th-ranked Lakers (8-1) in three victories before absorbing its first loss of the season to Sandwich 16-6.

    Haley Mullen, Archbishop Williams — She first netted three goals in an 11-4 win over Hull and then contributed four goals and two assist for the Bishops (11-3) in a 16-3 victory over Arlington Catholic.

    Lillian Stout, St. Mark’s — In the only game of action this week for St. Mark’s School (10-2), she had a strong, 7-point outing with four goals and three assists as the team rolled past Thayer, 13-2.

    Games to Watch

    Thursday, Concord-Carlisle at Wayland, 7 p.m. — The fourth-ranked Warriors (13-1) are undefeated in May, but their six-game winning streak will be in jeopardy when they host the 13th-ranked Patriots (8-4).

    Saturday, Notre Dame-Hingham at Cohasset, 6 p.m. — This battle between the top-ranked Cougars (14-1) and the third-ranked Skippers (12-1) is a must-see matchup.

    Monday, Needham at Walpole, 6:30 p.m. — The sixth-ranked Rebels (14-0) took down the seventh-ranked Rockets (8-4) in the first game of the season. Needham has won eight of its last nine games.

    Tuesday, Scituate at Norwell, 3:30 p.m. — The second-ranked Clippers (12-3) round out the regular season with a tough home test against the Sailors (11-2), winners of 10 of their last 11 games.

    Correspondent Ryan Hathaway also conbributed to this story. He can be reached at ryan.hathaway@globe.com. Liam O’Brien can be reached at lmobrien12@gmail.com.