As defending Division 1 state champion Westwood scores goal after goal, game after game, watching its rhythmic, high-octane offense can be hypnotizing.
The top-ranked Wolverines (13-0) — who have not lost since 2019 — secure possession, work the ball around, and wait for the perfect moment to strike over and over again. With standouts such as Ava Connaughton, Kate Deehan, Caroline Nozzolillo, Lindsey Diomede, Lil Hancock, Kella McGrail, and Maddie Lyons, they’ve averaged 15.6 goals per game this season.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget there’s a whole other side of the field. The Westwood defense doesn’t get quite as much buzz, but it’s just as responsible for the team’s success over the past two seasons. Haley Kutzer, Kendall Blomquist, Libby Dorsky, Olivia Williams, and goalie Riley Harrington have helped anchor a unit that’s allowed just 4.8 goals per game and has established itself as arguably the best in the state.
“We’re fortunate to have some senior leadership back there, and they’re confident in themselves and in each other,” Westwood coach Margot Spatola said. “Being able to work together makes it work.”
Many assume that the defense has all year-round players, but that’s not the case — none of the three senior leaders will play in college. Kutzer, a quick and savvy captain, is also a skiing state champion. Spatola said Kutzer encourages others and is willing to listen to feedback.
Blomquist, a senior committed to play field hockey at Holy Cross who also plays ice hockey, is a gamer who’s ready to compete regardless of the season. Spatola knows she can trust her to communicate, inspire her teammates, and react to anything thrown her way.
Dorsky, a senior, is extremely book smart, and Spatola said that translates to the field. She sees plays develop and anticipates well. Williams, an athletic and poised junior, is committed to the University of Vermont for lacrosse. Harrington, a junior verbally committed to Quinnipiac, is capitalizing this year after thriving as the backup last year.
They’re all seasoned and skilled as individuals, but they believe it’s their collaboration and chemistry that sets them apart.
“We do a really good job emphasizing having a positive mind-set throughout,” Blomquist said. “If one person makes a mistake, we’re always there to pat each other on the back and be there.”
That mental fortitude and togetherness were on display in a 6-5 win over Franklin in the state final last year and again in a 14-11 triumph over the No. 2 Panthers on Tuesday. On one play in the first half, for instance, Kutzer and Williams gave chase and pressured the Panthers on a free-position attempt, altering the shot as Harrington leaped to make a key save. Toughness also plays a role: Williams took a nasty fall but returned to action to a round of applause.
Even when Franklin made a run, Westwood quickly regrouped and remained poised. Though the Wolverines have many lopsided wins, they simulate an intense atmosphere in practice to help prepare themselves for pressure situations. Spatola acknowledged it can be difficult to stay focused during one-sided games, and she credited her team for staying locked in regardless of the score.
The Wolverines have withstood surges from Notre Dame (Hingham) and Franklin in recent weeks to stay undefeated. When a team makes a flurry, they make sure to never panic.
“We take pride in games like that, keeping it low-scoring and knowing that our defensive unit works really well together at stopping great teams,” Kutzer said.
▪ Scituate junior captain Charlotte Spaulding netted her 100th career goal in a 20-4 win over Quincy on Thursday, finishing the game with 8 goals, 3 assists, and 2 draw controls.
The midfielder has 61 goals and 19 assists this season, but her performance is not limited to what’s written on the stat sheet.
“Beyond her stats, Charlotte has made a huge impact working without younger and newer varsity players this year to help with their growth and development,” Scituate coach Ross Maki said.
Spaulding has helped the Sailors (5-4) to an undefeated start in conference play, sitting third in the Patriot League with four wins.
▪ With five goals in a 17-5 win over Georgetown on Friday, Pentucket senior captain Lana Mickelson surpassed the 100 career goals. The Iona commit has 102 goals and 42 assists, including 28 goals and 11 assists through seven games this year.
“Lana is the toughest player I’ve ever coached,” Pentucket coach Angela Palmer said. “She can push through just about anything — pain, fatigue, injury — nothing stops her. She’s a good leader on and off the field and her passion shows each and every game and practice.”
▪ Only two players at Cardinal Spellman have reached 100 career goals. With five goals in a 16-9 loss to Ursuline, senior captain Kathryn Lysko became the second name on that list, reaching 100 with a little less than five minutes to play.
▪ Former Wellesley standout Maja Desmond has quickly found her footing as a freshman at Dartmouth College, starting in 15 games for the Big Green. She netted five goals and led the team with 47 draw controls and 17 caused turnovers, and was second with 36 ground balls in her first season.
Games to watch
Thursday, No. 19 Needham at No. 4 Walpole, 3:45 p.m. — After a loss to No. 9 Wellesley, the Rockets (6-4) are on the hunt for a rebound, while Walpole (11-1) looks to continue its eight-game win streak.
Thursday, No. 3 Notre Dame (Hingham) at No. 13 Bishop Feehan, 4 p.m. — A 16-4 loss to Franklin sent the Shamrocks (10-1) down in the rankings, but they will look to rebound against powerhouse Notre Dame (10-2).
Friday, Nantucket at Cape Cod Academy, 4 p.m. — The top teams in the Cape & Islands League divisions — Nantucket (7-1) sits atop the Atlantic, while Cape Cod (9-2) dominates the Lighthouse — will face off.
Monday, Foxborough at No. 2 Franklin, 3:45 p.m. — At 10-4, Foxborough is in the hunt for a Hockomock Davenport title, while Franklin (11-1) sits atop the Hockomock’s Kelley-Rex Division. The rivals will each look to make a statement before the postseason.
Monday, No. 15 Duxbury at No. 6 Medfield, 5:45 p.m. — The Dragons (6-3) will travel to Medfield (9-1) for a nonleague clash looking to shake up the rankings. The Warriors’ loss came against top-ranked Westwood by just one goal.
Globe correspondent Emma Healy contributed to this report.
Trevor Hass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.