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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Entering Friday, it had been a exactly one year and a day since the Wellesley High School girls lacrosse team had their 2017 season come to an end at the hands of arch rival and eventual Division I state champ Needham in the South semifinals.
It had also been seven years since Wellesley girls lacrosse had beaten Needham (2011).
When the Division I South bracket was revealed earlier this month, the idea of a rematch between Needham and Wellesley caught the eyes of lacrosse enthusiasts immediately, with the Raiders (17-3) seeded second and the Rockets (13-7) seeded seventh.
After both teams took care of business in the first round - with Wellesley downing No. 18 Barnstable (18-2) and Needham outlasting Hingham (15-5) - a quarterfinal date was set between these two powerhouse programs for Friday afternoon. The prize: the right to move on and pursue a sectional and state championship.
Despite Needham rallying late to tie the game at six, a big fourth quarter by junior midfielder and Northwestern commit Maddy Balter (two goals, two assists) allowed Wellesley to exact some revenge and earn a 9-6 milestone victory over their arch-enemies to move on to the semifinals.
Johns Hopkins-committed junior captain Maeve Barker got the scoring started for Needham on a free position with 21:18 to play in the first half. Stanford-bound senior captain Caitlin Chicoski knotted the game at one off of a feed from Balter with 15:37 to play before Cal-Berkley-committed attacker Brooke Baker fired home a goal just 35 seconds later on the off-hand to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead. With 10:12 remaining in the half, Baker potted a rebound to extend Wellesley’s lead to a pair at 3-1. She completed the hat trick just 19 seconds later off of transition to make it a 4-1 game and force Needham to take a timeout.
Junior captain and star Callie Hem, who recently returned from injury, responded for Needham following the timeout, potting home a goal on the EMO off of a feed from freshman sensation Grace Kelley. The goal cut the deficit to 4-2 with 7:41 to play in the half. Senior midfielder and captain Grace Ahonen pushed Wellesley’s led back to three with a drive and finish down low with 4:57 to play before Balter fired home a goal at the crease with 2:33 remaining to make it a 6-2 game. Barker responded for Needham with her second of the game with 1:38 to play, making it a three-goal game at the half.
Needham strung together an impressive 3-0 run to begin the second half as Hem fired home her second of the game off of a feed from Kelley to make it 6-4 with 14:39 to play. Barker completed the hat trick just 37 seconds later on a free position to cut the deficit to a single goal at 6-5, before Kelley tied things at six with 11:11 to play.
The situation forced Wellesley to take a timeout.
Following the timeout, Chicoski stepped up and delivered the tie-breaking goal by driving to the crease and quick-sticking a feed by Balter from behind the cage with 8:08 remaining.
Hem then nearly tied the game back up for Needham following the ensuing faceoff victory, but the junior’s shot clanged off of the post.
With 4:49 remaining, Balter took a feed at the crease from Ahonen and fired home a goal upstairs to make it a two-goal game. Chicoski delivered the dagger soon thereafter with 2:51 to play with a drive and finish on the right-hand down low to make it 9-6.
The Raiders would hang on for the three-goal win.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.