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Walpole girls lacrosse battle back in state final thriller

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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Correspondent

With six minutes to play on Saturday morning at Boston University’s Nickerson Field, the game seemed lost for the Walpole High girls’ lacrosse team. Trailing 12-7 against defending Div. 2 state champions Norwell in the program’s first ever state final appearance, there seemed no way back for the Rebels.

But, the Walpole players never counted themselves out and stormed back in a frenetic final few minutes to come within inches of forcing overtime. Norwell goalie Chase Henriquez managed to get her stick to Emily Curtis’ last-second shot to clinch a 12-11 victory and a second straight title but the Rebels could take heart from an impressive performance against the talented Clippers.

When asked if he thought a comeback was possible late in the second half, Walpole coach Mike Tosone responded, “I don’t know that I thought we [could], but I’m not surprised we did.”

“Obviously, it looked bleak but these girls are a lot of things and highest on the list is competitive. In hindsight, I’m not surprised; I wouldn’t have necessarily predicted it was going to happen but I’m not surprised.”

Riley Bergholtz dominated the second half for Norwell and her fourth goal after the break pushed the lead to four goals with 6:09 remaining. It felt like the game was over at that point, but Walpole got one back three minutes later when Curtis bounce a shot past Henriquez to make it a four-goal game.

The teams traded missed opportunities but with 1:37 left, Alison Foley burst through on goal and scored to make it 12-9. The Rebels won the ensuing draw and Foley again provided the finishing touch to cut the lead to two goals.

Walpole again won the draw and showed patience in the attack, looking for the right opportunity to shoot. It was Foley once again who found a sliver of space and managed to slide a shot inside the post with 16 seconds on the clock. Foley, who took a bump on the shot, leapt to her feet in excitement and the Rebels fans were screaming encouragement at the improbable comeback.

“There’s a core of girls that if they went on a spurt I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Tosone, “and Alison is high on the list. She’s a great player and she’s tough as nails.”

The Rebels won another draw to get one last chance to try and tie the game and force overtime. Curtis broke free but the Norwell defense did a good job of not allowing a clean look at the cage and Curtis was forced to try and sneak a shot into the bottom corner while stepping away from goal. Henriquez got a piece of the shot to keep it out and seal the title.

“One last chance and it was a reasonable chance,” said Tosone.

“It was pretty well defended, Emily had to shoot, literally if there were two more seconds maybe she could’ve taken one more step and gotten a higher quality shot, but she had to shoot at that point.”

The way that the game started it seemed unlikely that the Rebels would be able to hang with the experienced Clippers. Norwell scored the first three goals of the game and after Melanie Weber got one back for Walpole the Clippers pushed the lead to 5-1.

Walpole gave up seven goals in the opening 12 minutes but then settled down and allowed only five more in the remaining 38 minutes.

“Their off-ball offense was off the charts good and we knew that coming in,” said Tosone. “You can only practice it so much…they do their offense better than we can do their offense. Once the girls got used to how exceptional they are off the ball, we were able to control it a little bit more.”

He was never worried that his team could get itself back into the game. Tosone explained, “There was not a sense that the game was going to get away from us. We’ve been in the hole before and we dug ourselves out 99 percent today.”

Weber drove through the middle to cut the lead to 7-4 with 12:56 left in the first half and nine minutes later Celia Walsh scored her first. Norwell added another and led 8-5 at the break.

Norwell also scored early in the second but Weber scored her third of the game to keep the deficit at three goals. She also answered the next Norwell goal with a tally in transition after Audra Tosone forced a turnover and raced forward in the clear.

The Clippers added the next two goals to push the lead to as many as five and it turned out to be just enough, as Walpole came within a whisker of capping the program’s best ever season with an unforgettable finish.

“I know that the wound is fresh right now,” Tosone reflected, “so they feel miserable but time heals all wounds and they’ll reflect back on an unbelievable season and an unbelievable game.”

The Rebels have a number of returning players, but Tosone was not thinking about the future as he spoke shortly after the final whistle.

“The future certainly looks bright and I’ll allow myself to think about that after a while, but we as coaches owe these seniors to reflect on what they’ve accomplished than to look forward. On paper we’re very young, but there’s no guarantees.”

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