READING — The Reading High girls’ lacrosse team took a large step towards toppling Woburn as Middlesex League Liberty champions with an 11-8 victory, yesterday at Hollingsworth Field.
The Lady Rockets got five points each from Alex Palermo (3-2) and Kiara Tangney (4-1), and timely saves in the second half from Madison Abruzzzese, which thwarted the Tanners’ comeback efforts.
Two-time defending division champion Woburn came into the game as underdogs, and trailed, 8-4, at the half, but the Tanners rallied to get within a goal twice in the second half before Reading outscored them, 2-0, in the final seven minutes to take the three-goal victory.
Woburn is now 2-1 with two league games remaining against Lexington and Winchester, while the Lady Rockets are 3-2 with Belmont and Lexington still on the docket.
“Reading is a great team and I think we had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on,” said Tanners’ coach Maggie Meagher. “That’s how it goes. I’m extremely proud of the way we came back.”
“They (Tanners) did a great job,” said Reading coach Rachel Monroe. “Their strength is taking the ball to cage and they were able to execute that pretty well. And they shut down our fast break pretty well, too.”
The Lady Rockets did their part to win the game in the first half when they managed to double up Woburn, 8-4.
Reading jumped out to a 3-0 lead while holding the Tanners without a goal for over 10 minutes. Palermo got the scoring started with an accurate shot after a rush from midfield. Tangney scored the first of her four goals on a free position at 19:21 and then set up Mia Pantano for the third goal at 14:59.
The Tanners got on the scoreboard less than two minutes later when Lexi Palmisano scored on a free position. Palermo answered on a free position, less than a minute later, prompting a Woburn timeout.
The timeout produced a goal from Courtney Cronin and a good chance for Palmisano, but Abruzzese came up with the first of many big saves. Palmisano would eventually make it 5-3 with her second goal at 5:48.
Palermo had the goal at the half at 2:43. She intercepted the ball down the defensive end, worked her way all the way down the field before beating Sophia Gregory with a shot. Palermo would then set up Hannah Gohr to make it 7-3.
“We were doing pretty well off the draws and taking care of our ball a little bit better when we had the ball and had possession,” said Monroe, of her team’s first half success. “We forced the ball too many times (in the second half) and had too many turnovers in our end.”
It could have been a lot worse for the Tanners if not for the play in goal by Gregory, who made six saves in the first half.
“Sophie Gregory’s saves were hugely motivating for the team, and I also thought defensively we played good team man-to-man defense,” said Meagher, noting Ashlyn Pacheco, Lily Anderson, Mary Emma Turner. “I thought we marked up well and the defense was good throughout the game.”
Down by four at the half, the Tanners rallied with three consecutive goals by Rachel McLaughlin, Palmisano and Cronin, the latter assisted by Emma LoRusso, to cut the deficit to one, 8-7, with 19:19 still to play.
Tangney ended the run with a free position shot, but Woburn got it back to one (9-8) on a free position goal by Palmisano with seven minutes left, which came after Abruzzese made three saves in a row. She made one more after that to help Reading stay in front all the way through the second half.
“We definitely needed to put the ball away but their goalie came up big in the second half,” said Meagher. “We needed to change up the way we were shooting, and when we did, we scored.”
“She played a fantastic game,” said Monroe, of Abruzzese. “She was unbelievable. She made some pretty pivotal saves at times we needed and sparked the whole team.”
Woburn continued to show its pride to the end, but late goals from Tangney and Panano helped Reading secure the victory.
“It was a valiant effort on our part,” said Meagher, of the Tanners’ second half rally. “The second half we came out a lot stronger and tied to close the gap. We bucked up and did not play afraid. I thought we played scared in the first half, and we are not a scared team.”
Woburn will host Lexington on Friday (4:15 p.m.) with an eye on a potential three-way tie for the league title, which could occur if the Tanners win out, and Lexington beats Reading.