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Wolverines oust Rockets, capture sectional crown

Ava Connaughton (4), Lindsey Diomede (5), Kate Deehan (9) and teammates celebrate their 20-6 victory over Needham on Wednesday. Photos by Mike Flanagan.

By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

The Division I South girls lacrosse bracket is always a gauntlet.

Despite finishing the regular season a perfect 18-0 and with the most wins of any team in the entire state, the Westwood girls were only awarded the No. 3 seed in the South sectional behind Old Rochester (10-0) and Wellesley (13-0).

Past heartbreaking late-round defeats, along with missing all of 2020 due to COVID, certainly had the Wolverines very motivated entering the 2021 postseason. The MIAA snubbing Westwood with the No. 3 seed in their sectional was just the cherry on top. A dominant 22-2 first-round victory against No. 14 Weymouth on June 18 put the whole bracket on notice.

Meanwhile, Needham earned the No. 11 seed in Division I South after finishing the regular season at 9-5. The Rockets pulled off a dominant 13-4 first-round victory over No. 6 Dartmouth on June 18 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Their reward? A road date with an incredibly deep and extra-motivated Westwood team.

In the early-going, it looked like Needham was going to give Westwood a run for its money. Lily Schmalz opened the scoring just 1:19 in by driving to the cage and bouncing home a shot from about 10 yards out to make it 1-0, Needham. Westwood's immense talent quickly responded and took over with a 5-0 run. Johns Hopkins commit Ashley Mackin (six goals, four assists) scored back-to-back goals, each assisted by Ava Connaughton (two goals, five assists), to give the Wolverines a 2-1 lead. A pair of goals by Lindsey Diomede (four goals), one on a free position restart and the other on a beautiful quick-stick at the net-mouth off a feed from Connaughton, stretched the lead to 4-1. Mackin completed the hat trick off transition moments later to push the lead to 5-1 and force Needham to a timeout.

"We typically like to see them working together on offense," said Westwood coach Margot Spatola on her team. "We had a lot assisted goals that led to that big run midway through the first quarter, so that was great to see. We have a lot we can still work on, but I thought that really helped us get into a rhythm."

Following the break, Westwood continued to hammer away, stretching the run to nine straight goals following a back-to-back by Mackin, one from Jane Gaffney and one from Kate Deehan to make it a 9-1 game. Needham responded with back-to-back goals at the tail end of the first quarter by Maddie Foster (two goals, two assists) and Kenzie MacGillivray to trim the deficit to 9-3 at the end of one.

Leading by seven late in the half, Mackin's fifth of the day, followed by Diomede's fourth with 8.1 seconds to play off the ensuing face-off win by Mackin, allowed Westwood to boost its lead to 13-4 at halftime.

The second half saw the Wolverines pick up right where they left off at the end of the second quarter. Mackin fired home a perfect bouncer on the run down the right alley for her sixth of the day to make it a 10-goal game just 57 seconds in. Leading 14-4, Westwood continued to plug away and outscored the Rockets 6-2 in the final two quarters to prevail by a final of 20-6.

On Friday, the Wolverines travelled to No. 2 Wellesley and earned a 10-9 win to advance to Sunday's sectional final against rival and No. 4 Notre Dame Academy (Hingham). The Wolverines were able to put away past demons against NDA with a 13-8 victory to take the sectional championship and move on to states.

At the time of print, Westwood will take on Central/West champ Longmeadow in the Division I state semifinals on June 29.

For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.

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