After winning their first two games of the state tournament in thrilling fashion — including a come-from-behind barnburner against Bourne last week — the girls’ lacrosse team on Thursday lost 13-7 at home to a juggernaut Duxbury team in the Division II south section semifinals.
Although the loss ended the Vineyarders’ spectacular post-season run, it also served as a punctuation mark to arguably the team’s best-ever season since it was created by coach Betsy Dripps some 13 years ago. While the Vineyarders also made it to the state quarterfinals in 2003 — ironically by beating Duxbury in the quarterfinals — they were handily defeated that year by number one-seed Westwood in the semis.
But in Thursday’s game against Duxbury, held before a raucous home crowd, the Vineyarders kept it close for most of the game. After falling behind by two goals early, the girls’ tied the game at 2-2 and then again at 3-3; and trailed only 5-4 at the end of the first half.
And keeping pace with Duxbury was no easy task.
Although the Vineyarders came into the game as a higher seed in the state tournament, the visitors sported a better record at 15-4-1 and played in a much more competitive conference The Dragons were also ranked 12th overall in the state by one newspaper poll, while the Vineyarders were ranked 46th.
Despite this disparity, the Vineyarders kept the Dragons on the run and had them clearly flustered for most of the first half.
“My kids played as well today as humanly possible [in the first half], they were amazing,” coach Dripps said. “I think it was evident early we were up against a good team, maybe one of the better teams in the state. They were lightning fast and their stick work was amazing, but our players never backed down and stepped up their game.”
After the Dragons jumped out to a 2-0 lead, Laura Jernegan finally got the Vineyarders on the board at the 18:55 mark when she cut through the box and fired a rocket past Duxbury goalie Stephanie Hoomis.
Cristina Wiley would tie the game about four minutes later on nifty backhanded goal, sending the home crowd into a frenzy. Although the Dragons took the lead again on an unassisted goal by Meg Munsey, Kate Cecilion tied it right back up less then a minute later to knot the game at 3-3.
Munsey scored again with five minutes left in the half, followed by another Dragons goal by Jill Caramello, who finished the game with four goals and two assists. But with mere seconds left on the clock in the half and her team down by two goals, Wiley charged through the offensive box toward the cage and flipped one past Hoomis to give the Vineyarders a lift heading into the break.
Perhaps the biggest story early was the outstanding play of Zoe Fisher, who made 14 saves in the game and 10 in the first half alone.
“I can’t recall a game when any goalie made 10 stops in one half. The coach [from Duxbury] came over to me at one point and said we had a great goalie — and I couldn’t have agreed more.”
The Dragons came out breathing fire to start the second half, passing with the ball with precision while storming up and down the field at will. After Caramello scored two goals in the first two minutes of the half, coach Dripps called a time out to try and settle her team down.
The team responded with a pair of goals, one by Jernegan and another by Molly Fischer to make it 8-6, but it was the closest they would get for the rest of the game.
Dragons forward Trisha Babson kept finding her teammates deep in the Vineyarder’s zone for easy scores, and finished the game with seven assists and two goals. The Dragons also switched goalies in the second half and went to Julia Hannon, who shut down Vineyarders and finished the game with five saves.
Jernegan finished with three goals in loss, Wiley had two goals, Cecilio had a goal and an assist and Hayley Pierce had an assist. It was also the last game for four Vineyard seniors — Jane Alexander, Rachel Schubert, Nica Sylvia and Sarah Sylvia — all of whom will be sorely missed, according to coach Dripps.
“Those four girls gave everything they had to their team and their school. They were a big part of this team,” she said.
But the coach noted that losing four seniors is a relatively small turnover for any team, and she said the future looks bright for the Vineyarders girls’ lacrosse team.
“I tell them they should always be looking forward, because there are so many good things on the horizon for all of these girls. As for this team, we will be back and we will be strong,” she said.
The coach said the lasting memory of this season should not be the team’s defeat to Duxbury on Thursday, but instead the thrilling win against Bourne last Monday in which they scored two goals in the final two minutes.
In that game, Alexander scored on a pass from Wiley with 2:01 left to tie the game at 12 goals apiece. The two then switched roles on the next sequence as Alexander got the ball low to Wiley in the box who scored the winning goal with 1:21 left in the game.
Coach Dripps said it was one of the best games she has ever been a part of, and one she hopes her girls will remember their whole lives.
“I was thinking [after the Bourne game] about what a hectic time of year it is for these girls — with the end of school and graduation and prom — and I had to really marvel at what they did to come back and win. With all that stuff going on, with so many distractions, they kept their focus and their determination in a game in which they were all but dead with only a few minutes left in the game,” she said, adding:
“I hope they realize how amazing that win was . . . I hope they realize how proud we are of all of them.”