GROTON — The first half of the Wachusett vs. Groton-Dunstable girls lacrosse game resembled the Indy 500. Goals came early and often and the two offenses dominated by scoring one goal after another from close range. The first 25 minutes ended with Groton-Dunstable holding a 14-9 advantage.
But in the second half, the Lady Crusaders changed strategies, looking to pass the ball more. Meanwhile, Wachusett kept taking the ball to the net, and in the end that made the difference in a stunning 19-18 win over the Lady Crusaders. The loss is costly, dropping Groton-Dunstable to 6-6 for the season, placing a post-season berth in the balance.
Casey Blakeney was a tower of strength for the Mountaineers, showing outstanding speed and finishing skills, en route to an eight goal effort. Annie Lynch added three goals and an assist.
Erika Eipp was outstanding for the Lady Crusaders, finishing with eight goals and three assists while Lauren Kraemer added two goals and three assists, and Livy Penney three goals.
The teams literally traded goals over the first nine minutes. Groton-Dunstable took leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 only to see the Mountaineers come back to tie the game at four junctures. Eipp had two of the goals for the Lady Crusaders while Penney and Olivia Rubeski added single tallies.
Groton-Dunstable took its five lead of the contest when Penney took a pass from Nicki Wilkinson and scored from close range, but that ended the trade-off as that goal kicked off a seven goal flurry that put the Lady Crusaders on top 11-4 and appeared to put them in control of the game. The goals came from all directions as Eipp, Rubeski, Penney, Kelsey Doran, Emma Ordemann and Rachel Silveria hit the back of the net as the Lady Crusaders appeared to have landed a knockout punch.
But Wachusett hung around. Blakeney scored back-to-back goals to make it 11-6, and the teams played evenly over the remainder of the first half and the Lady Crusaders maintained the five-goal lead at 14-9 heading to intermission.
The first 10 minutes of the second half had a different tone to it as Wachusett continued to make strong one-on-one runs at the net, while Groton-Dunstable went to more of a passing offense. The Lady Crusaders lost momentum and the Mountaineers charged back into the game by scoring six of the first seven goals. When Maggie Diggins netted a bouncer after making a spin move in front of the net, a would-be laugher was tied at 15-15.
The remainder of the game resembled the opening minutes as the teams traded goals. Eipp put the Lady Crusaders on top 16-15 when she came from behind the net and fired a shot under the cross bar.
Groton-Dunstable would take one goal leads at 17-16 on a low shot by Eipp, and at 18-17 when Eipp beat a pair of Wachusett defenders before netting a shot, but the omni-present Blakeney tied things up at 18-18 with a hard shot from outside the right post.
With the clock winding down, Wachusett’s Brandes MacKenzie stuck a dagger into the heart of the Lady Crusaders with just eight seconds remaining, taking a pass on the fast break from Diggins and bouncing a shot into the net for the decisive tally.
The Lady Crusaders didn’t have enough time to get in position to net the equalizer and slipped to a game under .500 and created a tough finishing scenario as they attempt to lock up a post-season berth.