BOSTON – Steve Dudeck said he knew when the season started that the Needham girls lacrosse team would prove to be a difficult hurdle to overcome in his team’s quest for a state championship. As it turns out, he was correct.
Led by 12 seniors and a smothering defense, the Needham Rockets edged the Longmeadow Lancers, 8-5, in the MIAA Division I state finals Saturday on Nickerson Field at Boston University.
While Longmeadow was looking to clinch its second D-I state title in three years, Dudeck knew Needham would provide problems.
“Needham was the team to beat, I thought, the entire season,” Dudeck said. “They were very good last year, and this year once they got their feet under them…you could tell that the last six weeks of their season they figured it out. Three months ago when the season started, it was one of those things where you kind of looked ahead and you kind of figured we could get to this game and be lucky enough to play Needham, if you want to call that luck. It was just one of those things where you knew they were going to be very, very good.
“They took it to us, they played a better game today and they were the better team today. It’s simple as that.”
Dudeck said that while Needham’s seniors help set the tone for the rest of the team, head coach Beth O’Brien is just as important to their success.
“Needham girls lacrosse has an exceptional program,” Dudeck said. “They’ve been good for a number of years. They’ve always been one of the top teams in New England. The kids that play for them are quality individuals, quality kids that are extremely well-mannered, extremely competitive, and they care about each other. That emanates from coach Beth O’Brien. That trickles down to all the kids who are in that program. Needham High School and Needham the community is extremely lucky to have someone like her run that program.”
Following Allison Tetreault’s score 5 minutes into the game to give Longmeadow an early 1-0 lead, Needham fired off four unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 lead at the half. They upped that lead to 7-2 with two quick scores in the opening few minutes of the second half, and were able to hang on for the win despite three straight goals by Kay Conway, Tetreault and Illana Kofman, who pulled the Lancers to within 7-5.
“All we needed was one more,” Dudeck said. “It was 7-5, we just needed one more goal there to tighten them up a little bit. We’ve been in that position too, and when the momentum starts going your way, it’s difficult to withstand.”
Sarah Conley and Maeve Barker powered the Needham attack with three points apiece, while Callie Hem contributed with two goals. Tetreault and Kofman each had two goals for the Lancers, while Hannah Valencia had eight saves in goal.
Saturday’s state final was the last game for eight Longmeadow seniors, including: Courtney Barrett, Allison Tetreault, Hannah Calabrese, Carly Kingston, Claire Fitzpatrick, Taylor Low, Elizabeth Katsoulis and Hannah Valencia.
Dudeck credited that group for setting a good example for the younger players on the team, which he hopes will translate into continued success for a team that just clinched its 16th straight sectional title earlier this month.
“They were a group of seniors that really played a number of sports in high school, so they knew what it meant to bring the team chemistry together,” Dudeck said. “That’s what I think they built this year. They built that team chemistry, they built that example for the younger kids.”
Dudeck added that the young nucleus of the team will benefit from playing with that group of seniors and playing against a great team like Needham in the state finals.
“You get seasoned when you play these big teams and you play these big games,” Dudeck said. “We might not have the depth as some of the teams out here in the eastern part of the state, but it’s nice for our young kids to see what level they need to be at to play against teams like this right here. It gives them that experience. Iron sharpens iron, and those kids had a good experience this year as far as what it takes and what you need to get better. We had a great team, we had a great season. This one game doesn’t make or break it.”
– Article by Jeff Hanouille