Groton-Dunstable sophomore Julia Stathis shoots over the shoulder of Walpole senior goalie Morgan Fortana for the first of her two goals during
Groton-Dunstable sophomore Julia Stathis shoots over the shoulder of Walpole senior goalie Morgan Fortana for the first of her two goals during Monday's Division 2 state semifinal. The Crusaders lost, 9-5. Sun/Ed Niser

WELLESLEY -- Eastern Mass. champion Walpole showed that it put the conditioning work in throughout the season, as the Rebels emerged with a 9-5 victory over Central/Western Mass. champion Groton-Dunstable (17-5) in Monday's Division 2 state semifinal at Babson College's MacDowell Field.

Div. 2 girls lacrosse state semifinals

Groton-Dunstable freshman Rachel Erickson cut the lead to three with under 15 minutes remaining, but the Walpole (22-2) defense stood tall the rest of the way.

"They took on the heat a little better than we did," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Sarah Valacer. "They were seasoned with some tough games moving into this, while we've had a few easier games. We haven't played real hard -- can you dig for that last ounce of energy late in the game. They have some amazing players as well -- we knew that coming in. We've never seen them play, so we didn't know how good they actually are."

Walpole advanced to Saturday's state final against the winner of Newburyport and Cohasset at Boston University's Nickerson Field at a time to be determined.

Groton-Dunstable, which defeated Bromfield for its third-consecutive Central/West title on Saturday at Shepherd Hill, ended the season in the state semifinal for the second-straight year.

Groton-Dunstable was led by sophomore Julia Stathis with two goals. Walpole junior attackman Emily Curtis led the Rebels with three goals.


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Walpole took command two minutes into the game, when Melanie Weber took advantage of a free position shot from the right hash and buried it past Groton-Dunstable junior goalie Gabrielle Orlando (nine saves).

Less than two minutes later, Groton-Dunstable junior Eleanor Eisenklam dipped her way through the Walpole defense and skipped a shot past Walpole senior goalie Morgan Fortana to tie the game at 1-1.

The Rebels potted a pair of unanswered goals from Celia Walsh (goal, two assists) and Curtis to stretch its lead to two midway through the opening half.

From left, Groton-Dunstable junior Jordan Wynn and freshman Emily Hauk double-team Walpole junior Emily Curtis. SUN/ED NISER
From left, Groton-Dunstable junior Jordan Wynn and freshman Emily Hauk double-team Walpole junior Emily Curtis. SUN/ED NISER
The Crusaders continued to push and were rewarded, when Stathis scooped up a groundball and flipped it to senior Katherine Royal on the fly, who slipped the ball inside the left post to bring Groton-Dunstable within one at 3-2.

Groton-Dunstable's defense was able to stretch the Walpole offense, but the Rebels were not deterred.

"We did get a little bit riled up and a little bit jittery," said Valacer. "Until we slowed it down, we really didn't have enough good looks to make it a game today. Normally, I think being here is new for a lot of them. Hopefully, over the next couple years that won't be much of an issue coming this far to have more veteran players coming into this game knowing that this shouldn't be the last place that we land."

Valacer, who is in her third year as the Groton-Dunstable head coach, has brought the Crusaders to at least the state semifinal round in each of those seasons.

"It will continue," said Valacer of her team's success. "We have three huge seniors that are leaving, but the junior and sophomore classes are ready. This season proved that they're not just little sophomores and juniors anymore. They're ready to go and they want it."

Follow Ed Niser on Twitter @EdNiser