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    Medfield High girls’ lacrosse determined to prove title was no fluke

    Medfield High girls' lacrosse team coach Kathleen McCullough, in back, gets taken out during practice by captain, Nicole Busa.
    Rose Lincoln for the Boston Globe
    Medfield High girls' lacrosse team coach Kathleen McCullough, in back, gets taken out during practice by captain, Nicole Busa.

    No one in Medfield seems to have any idea where the championship trophy is.

    Winning it was the hard part.

    Sitting at a pedestrian 10-5 last spring, the Warrior girls had beaten the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to.


    Then it all clicked.

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    Led by senior captains Natalie Gill , Abby McQuillan, and Emily Zlevor , the Warriors became unbeatable, winning their last eight games. The last three, two of which clinched the program’s first Division 2 South sectional title and first Division 2 state crown, were one-goal games.

    The Medfield boys’ lacrosse team, which has been a perennial power, was watching from the bleachers when the final whistle blew, the first time the boys had finished their season while the girls were still playing. They had to reschedule their team banquet to be there.

    Now, the Medfield girls’ squad begins the season intent on proving that last spring’s magical run wasn’t a one-time deal, even while the whereabouts of the hardware that is supposed to remind everyone it actually happened is unknown.

    “We have to find that,” said senior captain Nicole Busa , a stalwart on the defensive unit.


    “I’m not sure where it is,” said Sarah Honan , who returns for her senior season in the cage, where she was nearly unbeatable on free positions.

    The Warriors don’t know where the trophy is, but the concern in their voices is hardly noticeable. They’re much more concerned with finding the trophy a matching partner.

    “Of course we hope to go as far as we did last year,” Busa said. “But we truly need to prove ourselves again — to the league and the rest of the state — prove that we are for real.”

    Jason Heim , who was hired as head coach five years ago, moved from varsity to junior varsity to take on a lighter role and spend more time with his family. Kathleen­ ­McCullough , an assistant last year, has taken over the reins at the varsity level.

    The players haven’t noticed much of a difference between coaches, though. Neither is the screaming type, instead favoring group huddles when the entire squad can learn from discussing mistakes.


    The Warriors are all about the learning.

    McCullough, who played at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has been involved with the Medfield youth program, learns about as much from watching her own team play as she does from watching opposing coaches instruct.

    In back-to-back scrimmages during a play date last weekend, McCullough got a look at Division 1 Needham and Westwood, led respectively by Beth O’Brien and Leslie Frank , two of the most established coaches in Eastern Massachusetts.

    “We lost to both of them, but the focus was more to get the experience and learn a lot defensively,” McCullough said. “We barely had the ball on the attack.

    “But we do learn a lot just playing them — the pace, the physicality of the top teams. And I get ideas, defensively, and we’ll try to sneak some of their plays in.”

    McCullough hopes to have the Warriors eventually play a more aggressive defensive style, pushing their line a little farther out and applying more pressure on the ball carrier. A zone defense could eventually be put in, but for now Medfield plans on using the man-to-man style that helped lead the Warriors to the state title last year.

    That might not have been possible had it not been for Honan.

    Considered one of the better goalies in Eastern Massachusetts, Honan shined later in the season, becoming so good on free position shots inside 8 meters that some opposing coaches were instructing their players to instead look for the pass.

    “I just try to be aggressive,” said Honan, who will play at Hobart and William Smith next year.

    McCullough said Honan is “phenomenal,” and “to have a quality high school goalie is kind of rare in general.”

    In front of Honan is a tough defensive unit let by Busa and senior Emily Ott . Senior Alex McDevitt will share the captain duties with Busa.

    Junior Caroline Tschirch might be the Warriors’ most versatile player, a reliable midfielder who is capable of scoring along with senior attacker Katelyn Noschese , who will attend Division 1 Iona College.

    Noschese was on all the Medfield squads that won three straight state titles last year, in soccer, basketball and lacrosse.

    The trophies are somewhere.

    Medfield athletic director Eric Scott , hired in August to replace Jon Kirby , who retired, thinks he knows where the hardware is: hiding behind a window in the main office.

    “I tell them, don’t take this for granted,” Scott said. “I don’t know if I ever heard of anybody with three consecutive championships in three seasons. You might never see a state championship again.”

    The Warriors are going for a fourth.

    Teams to watch

    Needham: The Rockets have proven themselves as a consistent Division 1 contender and should compete all over the field. Replacing Tory Waldstein (Harvard) and Shelby Aubin (Georgetown) won’t be easy, but Catherine Conley and Maddie Stenberg are capable of scoring enough goals to put opponents on their heels.

    Lincoln-Sudbury Regional: Another team hit hard by graduation, the Warriors move on without Rachel Sexton (Notre Dame) and Madison Acton (Duke).

    Coach Deb DeJesus will look to senior captains Charlotte Fitzgerald (already committed to attend Merrimack), Kaileigh Maguire and Abby Quirk (Vanderbilt) to fill the void, and the Warriors figure to be among the top teams in Division 1.

    Hopkinton: Tess Chandler makes the Hillers an instant ­Division 2 contender even with the loss of speedster Tam Mills (Franklin & Marshall). Senior goalie Jackie Chirco is as good as they come.

    Framingham: The Flyers have struggled to get back to that elite level since they won it all in 2010, but Stacey Freda has her squad worrying opposing coaches yet again.

    Algonquin Regional: The Tomahawks captured a Central Mass. title in an explosive season last year, but face having to replace All-American Carly O’Connell , who finished her career with 525 points and is now playing for Oregon.

    Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@yahoo.com.