WELLESLEY — At a practice earlier this week, Notre Dame-Hingham girls’ lacrosse coach Meredith Frank tried something new, asking her to players sprint for one minute straight without stopping.
The Cougars sprint all the time, but this was the first time they had done this particular exercise. In the Division 1 state championship game Friday night, clinging to a one-goal lead over Longmeadow, that experience paid dividends.
“At the end of the game, she was like, ‘You’ve already done this.’ I don’t know how she knew that was going to happen,” said Notre Dame University-bound senior captain Madison Ahern, grinning.
The Cougars (23-3) played keepaway in the final minute, preserving a thrilling 8-7 win over the Lancers (17-5-1) at Babson College to cement their first state title since 2013.
While the end of the journey was a frantic finish, the buildup to this point was anything but a sprint.
NDA had come up just short in the D1 South tournament each of the past three years, and when it finally captured a sectional title, senior Julia Greene believes that was a pivotal moment.
“Once we got past that, we felt like we could keep going,” the Stanford-bound Greene said. “That was the hurdle we couldn’t overcome.”
The Cougars, the No. 2 seed from the South, blitzed Walpole, 17-8, in the state semifinals, but Longmeadow, a formidable No. 1 seed from the Central/West, kept pace the entire way in the final. NDA pulled ahead, 4-3, at the half, and neither team led by more than one until Ahern converted with 9:11 left to extend the Cougars’ lead to 7-5.
Greene added a goal with 6:34 remaining, then Jenna Joseph and Kay Conway converted in the final three minutes to make it 8-7.
Frank called timeout, and that’s when the sprint practice came to fruition.
They had waited for this moment for four years, so they weren’t going to let the momentum unravel in one minute.
“Credit to them for making us work literally until the final seconds,” Frank said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this senior class, who set the tone the whole way. I’m just really grateful.”
Cohasset 14, Manchester-Essex 3 — After missing out on a state title a season ago, Cohasset girls’ lacrosse coach Kully Reardon admits there were some long nights as she and her players digested what had transpired.
“We had a great season last year, but to not do it back-to-back, you feel like a failure, which is crazy,” Reardon said.
That empty feeling disappeared Friday night at Babson College, as the Skippers (20-6) breezed past Manchester Essex (17-6), 14-3, and clinched their second Division 2 state championship in three seasons. Northwestern-bound captain Jane Hansen poured in six goals, upping her total to 25 in the final four games of her high school career.
Fellow senior captain Annie Toomey anchored a strong defensive effort, freshman Molly Stephens added three goals, and Cohasset flew ahead, 10-1, at the half and cruised in a dominant performance.
“It feels unbelievable,” Hansen said. “The last one was really special because I had my sister [Elle] and a lot of other girls, but we worked so hard for this one. We wanted it so badly, and it’s just incredible to pull through at the end. This one’s super special.”
Hansen delivered the highlight of perhaps the entire tournament early in the second half, when she fired a no-look, over-the-shoulder shot that whizzed by the goalie and into the net to make it 11-1.
“Whenever that happens, you know it’s game over,” Toomey said. “She’s literally not human.”
Ceci Mastendino, Brigid Edgerton, and Lily Athanas provided the goals for Manchester-Essex. The Hornets, the No. 4 seed from the North, made the final for the first time ever in coach Nan Gorton’s first season, but the Skippers, the No. 3 seed from the South, were simply overpowering on this day.
Reardon praised Jane and her sister, Elle, for not only dominating on the field, but also raising the level of play of those around them. She’s excited for the challenge of trying to keep the momentum going without the two best players she’s ever had, but first, she’ll take some time to cherish this one.
Said Reardon: “It feels like what we’ve worked so hard for since 2017 has finally come to fruition.”