LUNENBURG -- Brittany Belanger netted the early goal for No. 14 seed Groton-Dunstable (10-9-2) 15 minutes into the match, but the Lady Crusaders could not hang on as they were ousted by the top-seeded Northbridge Rams 4-1 on Friday afternoon at Lunenburg High School.
The Crusaders came out from the opening whistle with crisp touches at the midfield, resembling the style of play they won with throughout the regular season and playoffs.
Northbridge would tie the game with 4:35 remaining in the first half off a rebound chance following a punching save by Crusader's keeper Kaylin Rekos that rang off the crossbar. The ball would deflect out to the feet of Sarah Boucher, and she'd dish to Jacobs for the goal left side to knot the game at 1-1. The Rams would waste no time capturing the lead. Junior Casey Boucher buried the eventual game winner top-shelf left side from 30 yards out off a brilliant through-ball from Jorgi Adee with 2:37 left in the first half to give Northbridge a 2-1 advantage.
Five minutes into the first half, Groton-Dunstable middle wing Olivia Rubeski went on a run upfield and dished to Brittany Belanger, but she was turned away from the net at the last second by the Rams defense.
Northbridge goalkeeper Nikki Zudeimma made an acrobatic diving save on a Belanger offering with 21:00 left in regulation.
The Rams would tack on another goal in the 67th minute off a majestic cross by Abbie Sansoucy to Sarah Boucher to extend their lead to 3-1.
Groton-Dunstable surpassed their season goal by winning their first playoff game and then some. The Crusaders played a tough nonconference schedule with several Division 1 opponents.
"I am very proud of the girls. We set goals at the beginning of the season, and we said we wanted to get in the playoffs and win our first playoff game and get respect like the boys' team gets," said head coach Steven Naboicheck. "We achieved every single one of our goals."
The Crusaders will lose seven seniors from this year's squad in All-New England caliber goalkeeper Kailyn Rekos, Cate Cullen, Kati McElearney, Dani Kenney, Caroline Stark and Jen Johnson.
"Rekos is the best female goalkeeper I have ever worked with," said Naboicheck. "Thursday night she received All-State honors, All Central Mass. and All-New England. She is one of two girls who were named All-State and All-New England across the three divisions."
Belanger garnered All-League, and All-Central Mass. All-Star honors.