[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Needham High School varsity girls lacrosse team concluded an absolutely dominant 2017 season with an 8-5 win over Longmeadow on Saturday afternoon at Boston University in the MIAA Division I state championship game.
Following an 18-3 regular season that saw zero conference defeats and an outright Bay State Conference title, the Rockets earned the No. 1 overall seed in the South Sectionals. Following a first-round bye, the Rockets handled No. 8 Duxbury in the quarterfinals by a final of 13-4, followed by a 14-7 win over Wellesley in the semifinals and a 10-9 win over non-conference rival Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) in the South Finals.
After being crowned South Sectional champs, the Rockets continued their dominance against Andover (North Sectional champ) in Wednesday’s state semifinal match at Babson College, prevailing 18-8 behind a dominant first half offensively by senior captain Sarah Conley and sophomore Callie Hem.
Just 1:08 in against Andover, Stephie Vallace got the Rocket offense fueled up with a goal on a free position restart for the early 1-0 lead. Off the ensuing faceoff, Conley received a pass from freshman Lilly Callahan and fired a shot high for the 2-0 lead with 23:39 to play. With 16:19 to play in the half, Callie Hem’s first of the game on a free position gave Needham a 3-0 edge. Just over two minutes later, Hem extended Needham’s lead back to three goals at 4-1 on a free position after Andover trimmed it down to three. Conley netted her second of the game off a sweet feed from Caroline Walsh just over 40 seconds later with 13:39 to play, extending the Rocket lead to 5-1.
Andover scored a pair of goals to cut it to 5-3 with 8:51 to play in the half, but all it did was awaken the beast that was the Rocket offense.
Following the third Andover goal, Needham went on a 7-1 run to conclude the half, with two goals coming from Caroline Walsh, one from Kendall Milligan, Conley for the hat trick, Jessica Hem, and Callie Hem again, as Needham entered the break ahead 12-4.
The Rockets would continue to pound away in the second half, scoring six more goals and eventually running away with an 18-8 victory to advance to Saturday’s state final.
After falling behind 1-0 early on Saturday, the Rockets responded through the stick of who else but Sarah Conley, as the captain scored two goals a minute and thirty seconds apart followed by a snipe from Kendall Milligan to put Needham up by a pair at 3-1. Three minutes later, Conley found Caroline Walsh open on the doorstep and Walsh took the pass and dumped it into the back of the cage to make it a 4-1 lead for Needham. Longmeadow got one back with 7:04 to play in the half to cut it to 4-2. The Rockets would respond, however, as Callie Hem fired home a goal to extend it back to a three-goal game at the half at 5-2.
Just 13 seconds into the second half, Callie Hem extended the Needham lead to 6-2 with her second of the game on a fast break off the opening faceoff. Just over a minute later, Maeve Barker shot one home on the foot of the cage to make it a 7-2 lead for Needham. Following the Barker goal, Longmeadow went on a 3-0 run to close it to a 7-5 game with 9:36 to play. With 1:28 left to play, Maeve Barker sealed it for the Rockets with an open-net goal to extend the lead to three.
The Rockets were able to hold off a late push by Longmeadow, and hang on to win the Division I title by a final of 8-5.