Recap: Needham 13, Westford Academy 5

NEEDHAM, Mass. -– Needham senior Maddie Stenberg literally drew 'ewws and ahhs' from the home crowd as she consistently impressed them with her ease in scoring when facing the uncomfortable yesterday afternoon.

Reaching through defenders to grab passes, finishing rapid give-and-go's with teammate junior Catherine Conley and burying no look draw-and-dump passes on the breakaway, the senior who finished her second-to-last regular season game at Memorial Field yesterday afternoon still had something left to leave the crowd stunned. Burying six goals and assisting a pair, Stenberg lead the Bay State Carey champs (17-2) to a 13-5 defeat of previously undefeated Westford Academy (19-1) in a nonleague battle of state powers.

“We wanted to play them because we knew they were a good team and I think it gives us a lot of confidence that we can face these teams in the playoffs,” said Stenberg. “ We have worked together for so long that we know exactly what we are going to do. We do draw drills so we practice doing the draw and having someone cut up, but a lot of it is comfortableness.”

Stenberg caught a rocket shot on the back of WA senior goalie Erin Shaughnessey's jersey for a 7-3 free position tally at 18:18 in the second half to help prompt a 5-1 scoring run that sealed the victory for Needham. The senior would run unassisted from behind the net and bury another score over Shaughnessy's net to finish the streak at 11-4 within 10 minutes.

“You are good defenders (and) you don't need to foul so take some chances,” said Needham coach Beth O’Brien. “It is vitally important to end you season on a high note (and) a tough note. To see really where we are standing right now.”

After dropping down 5-1, the Grey Ghosts' twice cut the score within three including a swift catch and release assist from Cathryn Sennott to fellow junior Jenna Klinka for the 6-3 deficit at 23:48 in the second half but were unable to near equalize.

WA lead only for the first 9:34 off a free position tally from leading scorer senior Bailey Mongillo at 23:10.

“I did not have my whole team here and that made it difficult today,” said Westford Academy coach Julie Olivier. “Nothing planned at all (on the breakaway) it all comes from what the girls have worked on in their motion offense.”

All With Ease: Needham's passing ability showed what makes them one of the premier programs in Massachusetts girls' lacrosse yesterday. Conley and Stenberg both scored tallies despite a defender being completely positioned with both their stick and body between themselves and the ball.

Conry ripped a pass inches past a Grey Ghosts' stick to setup Conley for a 4-1 score at 9:53 in the first, while Stenberg whipped her stick head over a defenders net to grab an assist from Conry for the 5-1 tally a little under six minutes later.

The 5-1 goal finished a five goal scoring streak for Needham during a 21:51 span in which the Rockets held WA scoreless.

“To really be able to be poised and controlled under pressure,” said O'Brien. “(We need to) be able to make those catches and be able to take one or two steps and get the shot off. (Conley and Stenberg) are just incredibly comfortable with knowing exactly what the other one is doing.”

A give-and-go between Conley and Stenberg showed the pairs comfortableness with each other with 12:50 left in the game. With both standing right behind the post, Conley kept her eyes on the cutter as she caught a pass from Stenberg and nailed the senior back in front of the goal for an easy 9-4 score.

Tough Finale to A Big Season: WA will end its season with both the programs' best record and its first ever Dual County League (Large) crown. The Grey Ghosts' beat former league powerhouse Lincoln-Sudbury twice this season.

“Needham is a seasoned team, they played very well and we are happy that we are able to play them at the end of the season,” said Olivier."