Lady-Raiders best Rockets in sectionals

Needham’s Dana Fernandez (10) defends against Wellesley’s Brooke Hamilton (12) midway through the second half. Photos by Michael Flanagan

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.

Eileen Manning (9) scoops through a groundball off of a Needham faceoff victory. Photos by Michael Flanagan

Eileen Manning (9) scoops through a groundball off of a Needham faceoff victory. Photos by Michael Flanagan

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 junior captain Chloe Newman (23) defends against Wellesley’s Maddy Balter (10) on a drive to the cage early in the first half. Photos by Michael Flanagan

Needham junior captain Chloe Newman (23) defends against Wellesley’s Maddy Balter (10) on a drive to the cage early in the first half. Photos by Michael Flanagan

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.

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