READING — It was an eventful week for the Shawsheen Tech Girls Lacrosse team, who saw their season come to an end on Monday night with a 14-1 loss to Austin Prep in the first round of the MIAA Division 2 North Sectional Tournament.
That was the bad news of the week for the Rams, who as the number nine seed had the misfortune of drawing a powerful Austin Prep squad in the first round.
But prior to the tough loss to Austin Prep there had been plenty of good news for the Rams, who over the weekend swept a pair of games over Old Colony and Essex Tech to win their third consecutive Massachusetts State Vocational championship.
Shawsheen got the vocational tournament started on Friday night at the Charles H. Lyons Athletic Complex with a 16-2 win over Old Colony. The Rams had defeated Old Colony by a score of 10-8 in la hard fought battle in last year’s vocational championship game, but there was no such drama this time around as Shawsheen rolled to victory.
“That score was a bit of a surprise for everyone,” Shawsheen coach Alex O’Reilly said. “Our schedule last week opened up a great opportunity for me to get down to their school and actually catch a game before we played them on Friday, so that was very helpful, especially where we don't see them in regular season or have any common opponents who we could use to size up Old Colony against. We switched up a few things before the game started and the girls applied themselves one hundred percent.”
The Rams got on the board just 45 seconds into the off a goal from freshman Devin Sweeney off an assist from senior Megan Brown, and they never looked back.
“Despite the energy being high already, getting on the clock that early was huge for what the girls brought to the table for the remainder of the game,” O’Reilly said. “Our team was fired up, loud, and hungry for a win.”
Shawsheen was led by a well balanced scoring attack, getting three goals each from Megan Brown, Devin Sweeney junior Jade Sweeney and sophomore Rachael Halas, while junior Celina Barczak had two, and seniors Kara Ippolito and Maddi Rumley had one each.
“The scoring during this game was a perfect reflection on the girls' teamwork,” O’Reilly said. “No one was out there looking for the glory or trying to be the hero. That's the best kind of energy to have down on offense because everyone remains patient and passes or shots are consistently clean. The offense we've been running recently is very precise with who cuts to net and when. The girls stuck to the plan and when done correctly, it opens up plenty of scoring opportunities for everyone down that end.”
The championship game on Saturday against Essex Tech was much more dramatic, with the Rams fighting their way to a 7-6 victory. The CAC rivals had met twice before during the regular season with Shawsheen winning both games, including ironically, a 7-6 win back on May 13.
The Rams found themselves trailing 2-0 early in the game, but three straight goals from Brown gave Shawsheen a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter.
After scoring three goals herself, Brown started to pick up some assists, starting with a nice back-door feed to Devin Sweeney. A goal by Ippolito and another from Devin Sweeney gave Shawsheen a 6-3 lead at the half.
The second half was a lot of back and forth play between the teams. Essex closed the gap with an early goal but Rumley set up Brown for a good crease roll and the Rams were able to maintain a 7-4 lead.
“The final few minutes were the most intense as Essex Tech's tensions were high and we were clearly starting to burn out,” O’Reilly said. “My girls never back down though and they fought tooth and nail until the buzzer went off.”
In what was their final vocational tournament game for the Rams, a pair of seniors Megan Brown and goalie Julia Ryan of Wilmington went out with a blaze of glory, with Brown scoring four goals and Ryan making ten key saves to preserve the victory.
“Megan had a phenomenal game against Essex Tech. The girls set goals for themselves and their team at the beginning of the season and one of Megan's goals was to win the vocational tourney,” O’Reilly said. “You could see in her play that she was working towards accomplishing that goal. She got us on the board with the first goal, bumped the score to a safer lead with the last goal, scored two others in between, and set up her teammates throughout the duration of the game.
While Brown was getting things done on offense, Ryan was getting it done in net, making ten saves in each vocational game, which when added to her saves in the Austin Prep game, gave her exactly 400 saves in her career.
“Julia has developed into such a confident player over the last few years. She saved two thirds of the shots on her during the championship game and remained focus the entire time,” O’Reilly said. “The best quality in Julia's play is that she's not afraid to leave the net. She earned a significant amount of turnovers for us down the defensive end by stepping out of the crease and intercepting field passes or feeds from Essex Tech.”
With the great play of Brown, Ryan and many others, the Rams were able to put together another outstanding season, going 13-6 overall. While they were unable to capture their fourth straight CAC title, narrowly missing out on the crown to a great Mystic Valley team, they did win their third straight vocational title, picking up several key wins along the way.
“This season reminds me a lot of my first year with the team back in 2016 when the now seniors were just freshmen,” O’Reilly said. “We had a very similar season where we were working significantly on cleaning up the little things — passing, catching, ground balls, and maintaining possession.
“We did a lot of that this year, unfortunately taking away from time that could be spent working on plays or game strategies, but that work got us to the end and ultimately won us the vocational championship. This puts us in a great spot for next year, and even though we came up short on the league title, we have something to get after in 2020 and we owe it to the girls who are graduating this year.”
And while it will be tough to replace players like Brown, Ryan, Ippolito and Rumley, among many other seniors, O’Reilly is confident the Rams will have another successful season next year thanks to a strong core of returning players.
“We have many significant players coming back to us next year and I know they are ready to work and get back on top of the CAC,” O’Reilly said. “Jade Sweeney and Celina Barczak are coming back as our seniors in 2020 and I expect big things from them as midfielders and leaders on our team.
Following those two we have six girls entering their junior year - Jessie Saunders, Amanda Howell, Teagan McDonald, Sarah Comeau, Rachael Halas, and our goalie Jenna Johnson. These girls have seen so much field time already as underclassmen that I have no doubt in my mind they'll be able to step up big time next year and dominate when we need it most. Finally, Devin Sweeney and Abbie Wood have closed out a very strong debut season this year and will bring back a lot of talent for us to work with in the spring. We have a great young group of ladies returning next season and I know they will be able to uphold the culture and expectations that have made our team so successful over the past few years.”