WESTWOOD, Mass. -– Wolverine Kim Egizi patiently worked her way along the sidelines as she waited for her chance in the final minutes last night. Positioning teammate Jamison O'Neill between her defender and the goal, the Westwood junior slipped just behind the near post then jetted out in front of the crease to score underhanded effort with 1:16 remaining.
Egizi's only goal of the night proved the crucial game-winner for the two-time reigning Division I girls' lacrosse state champs (13-0) as they once again got the best of non-league rival Needham (11-2) in a tightly contested 10-9 rematch of the last years' South Sectional finals.
“Really (wanted to) wait for that perfect opportunity and not get any forces,” said Egizi. “(O'Neill's) girl went away and I took it around my girl. No one else was around me (so) I just took it right to goal.”
Two consecutive scores by junior Kira Oberle, including a 9-9 free-position grounder with 2:25 left, had previously helped battle the Rockets back from a two goal deficit.
“We knew they were going to be setting the doubles immediately after Maddie (Stenberg),” said Needham coach Beth O’Brien. “We know what a force Kira is coming from the top. She has great speed, a good first step and she is the type of kid under pressure that is going to finish.”
Waves of the Game: The teams equalized six different times as each squad rode different scoring waves.
Westwood leapt into the second half by netting the first four goals. O'Neill (a junior) waded out along the eight-meter mark then dipped her shoulder in towards the net to create space and score a 7-6 tally with 22:27 left. After equalizing at 7-7 with 14:37 remaining, Wolverines' senior Marina Burke (four goals) ripped in a long bounce-shot seven minutes later for the 9-7 advantage.
“There was too much settling,” said Westwood coach Leslie Frank. “We asked them to try to push it off the draws, but to keep the pace of the offense up.”
Despite winning six of the first seven draws, Needham trailed 3-2 off a swatted shot by Westwood junior Ela Hazar at 5:24 in the first half. The Rockets scored five of the next seven tallies to pull ahead 7-5 by half.
Rockets' senior Maddie Stenberg curled out from behind the net and in-front of the crease to catch a 3-3 assist from junior Catherine Conley at 14:56. Pulling ahead three times over the next ten minutes, Conley ducked two defenders who were crashing from both sides on a free-position to bury a 6-5 score with 3:37 left until the break. Freshman Kailey Conry stutter-stepped away from her defender and ripped in a low shot for a 7-5 advantage with 21 seconds remaining in the half.
“One thing that was a difference in the first half where we were winning some of (the draws) was we were running through the ball and taking the opportunities there,” said O'Brien.
“Quite sticks, keep it calm and get your body on them to try to change their direction (defensively),” added Frank.
South Sectional Rivalry: Coach O'Brien beat the Wolverines for the first time in ten years last spring with a 12-10 regular season victory. However, the top-seeded Rockets' eventually dropped a 12-9 home loss to Westwood in the South Sectional finals.
Needham remain one of the only squads to consistently battle shot-for-shot with the Wolverines over the past few seasons, especially in last year's playoffs.
“Both teams are high caliber,” said O'Brien. “Everything we do prior to coming into this game is under a tremendous amount of pressure. Every practice we have is in tiny spaces, a lot of pressure (and) move the ball as quick as you can.”