By Evan Wheaton
WELLESLEY – Rather than the usual team captain approach, all 11 seniors on the Longmeadow girls lacrosse team walked up to receive the runner up trophy after falling to Notre Dame Academy in the Division 1 state championship, 8-7.
For them, this was their last chance to win the title after four years of highly successful seasons and deep playoff runs. They carried the Lancers’ winning culture all throughout their high school careers as they lost on the same stage in 2017 as well as the state semifinals in 2016 and 2018.
“God, what can I say, what can I not say,” Longmeadow midfielder Ilana Kofman said. “I mean, they were an amazing bunch of leaders, friends, and teammates. They all pushed us every single day in practice to be the best that we can be, to be the best team that we can be. They all had a winning mentality but they had a family mentality. They kind of, thankfully, put that into us, so hopefully, we can translate that into next year and I will forever be grateful I got to play on a team with them.”
Kofman scored three goals and one assist in the loss. The game remained a tight matchup all around as there were six lead changes. For the first half and the vast majority of the second, no team led by more than one goal at a time until the Cougars went on a three-goal run to break a 5-5 tie.
“I thought we were pretty evenly matched,” senior midfielder Kay Conway said. “They’re obviously a great team and we’ve worked really hard to become the team that we are today, so I think that score and that back-and-forth nature of the game really spoke to how hard each team was working, how much we put into it, and how much time we put into it this season, how bad each of us wanted to win it, but ultimately, NDA came out on top.”
The Lancers defense forced the Cougars to take deep shots as defenders collapsed on the Notre Dame attack. Both offenses also had lengthy possessions as they took their time to feel each other out.
“I think that pressure today definitely was their strong suit,” Kofman said. “I mean, every single one of them, scrappy, athletic, they definitely pressured out hard. They gave us a great game.”
This tactic employed by both teams proved to be beneficial in the low scoring game.
“I think it was helpful,” Kofman said. “We got to kind of work the ball around, especially when people got tired because it was such a back-and-forth game. We got to figure out what plays we needed to run, kind of what defense they were running. I think that spoke for both of us on our teams. It definitely slows the game down on the high school level without a shot clock.”
Many of the tears for the Lancers after the game weren’t just from the championship loss; they were from the fact that 11 faces were leaving.
“Like I’ve said before, we all really love each other,” Conway said. “Although this wasn’t the ideal ending for us, we appreciate all the time we had together. It’s a little bit of a disappointment but NDA gave us a great game and it was hard-fought. I think that speaks to the loyalty we have to each other and the grit that we have. We really wanted to fight to the end and make the most of every minute.”
For the next generation of Longmeadow girls lacrosse, the future is bright despite the departure of such a strong senior class. They’re already likely to make another deep postseason run.
“It would mean the world, obviously,” Kofman said. “It’s what we work for every single year just to come back here and play a great team like NDA, put up a good fight, and hopefully come out on top. It would mean the world, our team works hard off-season, in-season, so we have a good shot.”
Kofman will likely take a strong leadership role next year as she and the rest of the returning players instill the winning culture of the Lancers on the newcomers. The last time Longmeadow won the title was in 2015. In the direction they’re heading, it may be their time again soon.