BOSTON — At the end of the day Thursday. the difference between being one of the top Division 2 girls lacrosse teams in the state and the state champs came down to Groton-Dunstable being unable to stop a power duo from Norwell, Caroline Walsh and Stephanie Croke. The Crusaders played a strong game, but the Walsh-Croke combo combined for 13 Norwell goals and pushed their team to a 16-7 victory.
Norwell scored twice in the first five minutes of the game, but goals by Katherine Royal and Alexa Stathis (three goals) tied things up. Groton-Dunstable goaltender Maria Antonellis had an outstanding half, with seven saves to keep the Crusaders in contention. At halftime, the game was close, 5-3 Norwell.
Coming back on to the field at Harvard University after the break, Norwell scored just seconds into the second half.
Groton-Dunstable sophomore Alexa Stathis responded with her second score.
Then the roof caved in — Norwell’s Walsh and Croke combined for seven goals in eight minutes.
“We knew (the Walsh-Croke tandem) was a threat,” Groton-Dunstable coach Sarah Valacer said in a story in the Worcester Telegram. “We just came out and played our game. It was tough to stop them.”
Alexa Stathis’ two goals in the first half and a quick one-goal answer in the second half sparked the Crusaders, but it was never enough to stop that Norwell seven-goal run.
G-D was missing two defensive starters, senior captain Fiona Henry and junior captain Rebecca Herlihy. With only two subs available, the team faced Norwell’s herd of fresh legs applying pressure to the ball every yard of the field, G-D simply ran out of gas. Veteran juniors Julie King and Emily Acone anchored the defense as freshmen Ellie Eisenklam, Jordan Wynn, and Sarah Mullins and sophomore Samantha Smith shifted between defense, midfield, and attack positions in an attempt to conserve energy and hinder Norwell’s onslaught. Freshman Leah Garside was brought up to the G-D squad for all the playoffs games. Junior Sam Flament, also brought up, attended earlier playoff games, but not the state tournament.
Sophomore Sophia Irby scored two and senior captain Nicole Wilkinson and sophomore Katie Royal each score one for G-D in the championship game. G-D attackers, juniors Sara Walsh and Olivia Aumais, had two and one assists respectively.
It was Groton-Dunstable’s first championship playoff game.