As Wellesley and Walpole battled in the first half of Thursday’s Division 1 girls’ lacrosse semifinal at Natick High, it seemed likely that the matchup would come down to the final few minutes.
The Bay State Conference rivals were extremely evenly matched early, alternating possessions, both playing a physical and unselfish brand of lacrosse, and making the other offense work for everything. That changed dramatically in the second half, however — and it happened in a hurry — as Wellesley decisively snatched momentum and never relinquished it.
Wellesley pulled away for a masterful 10-4 win to set up a state final clash with second-seeded Westwood Monday at Babson College. The No. 4 Raiders outscored the top-seeded Timberwolves, 7-1, in the second half, using a pivotal 5-0 run early in the first 13 minutes to turn a 3-3 halftime score into a lopsided affair.
“We were nervous,” Wellesley coach Steve Balter said. “We found our calm place at halftime. We settled down and found poise.”
It would be difficult to tell without glancing at a roster, but Wellesley (18-5) has a relatively young team with five seniors, six juniors, seven sophomores, and eight freshmen. Everything the Raiders do revolves around Davidson-bound midfielder Alanna Dumalac – who racked up two goals, two assists, three draw controls, and six ground balls Thursday – but Wellesley’s depth was on full display as well.
Freshman Kaitlyn Uller added three goals and three draw controls, Lydia Carr and Jess LaPlaca were everywhere for the Raiders, and freshman goalie Bryce Lane was dependable in net. Eliza Chapman, McKay Pratt, Catherine Smith, and Kira DeOliveira spearheaded a spectacular defensive effort to stymie one of the state’s most explosive offenses.
“Things really weren’t going our way in the first half, but after we talked as a team and stepped up on D, it all came together,” said Carr, a senior captain. “I’m really proud of all of us for stepping up and playing how we know how to play.”
Maggie Mahoney, Brianna Fruci, and Carol Whelan delivered in the first 15 minutes for Walpole, but the Timberwolves (21-3) got just one goal, from Natalie Griffin, the rest of the way. Dumalac and Uller helped the Raiders consistently retain possession, and they patiently worked the ball around on offense and relied on help and communication on defense.
Dumalac said this has been a dream of hers since she was an eighth-grader watching the Raiders win it all. LaPlaca called it the “best feeling ever” to make it to the final.
Walpole coach Mike Tosone is proud of the team’s run to this point but said the Timberwolves simply had no answer for a dynamic and well-coached opponent.
“We lost to a better team,” Tosone said. “There’s no ‘should have, could have, would have.’”
Westwood 16, Lincoln-Sudbury 2 — The win streak is now 48 and counting for the juggernaut Wolverines.
With its throttling of the third-seeded Warriors (19-4), No. 2 Westwood (24-0) is back in the state final with a shot at a repeat.
Lindsey Diomede collected four goals and two assists, Caroline Nozzolillo piled up seven points (three goals, four assists), and Ava Connaughton added three goals.
“Didn’t even know that was the streak,” said Westwood coach Margot Spatola of the two-year run. “We’re focused on each day and clearly they brought it today.”
Diomede and Kella McGrail put the Wolverines up 2-0 less than three minutes in before Katie Wollin scored for L-S.
Nozzolillo (2), Connaughton (2), Kate Deehan, Diomede and McGrail all contributed to a 7-0 run for a 9-1 halftime lead.
“It starts with the leaders on this team and knowing what to expect,” said Diomede. “It works its way down to maintain that expectation and (Spatola) definitely keeps us going 100 percent and I think we have a lot of fun too … but we come in every season wanting to win that state championship.”
Reagan Malo opened the scoring for L-S in the second half, but Diomede (2), Lillian Hancock (2), Connaughton, Nozzolillo and Deehan all added second-half goals.
“We’re playing our game and just coming in knowing if we play our game we can beat anyone,” said Diomede. “We know what we’re capable of.”
Correspondent Kevin Stone also reported from Natick.
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.