FITCHBURG — While North Middlesex Regional and St. Bernard’s are set to fire up an annual rivalry game on the gridiron, the Patriots are doing all they can to ensure that the girls’ lacrosse games between the two schools are one-sided.
Behind an almost perfect defensive effort, Monday’s game was never in doubt as the Patriots defeated the Bernardians, 14-2, at the Bernardian Bowl.
North Middlesex improves to 4-1 on the season, and has a busy week with three games, including a tough trip to Shrewsbury on Tuesday. St. Bernard’s dips to 1-3 with the defeat.
“We’re having a different approach this year than we’ve had in the last couple of years,” North Middlesex head coach Margaret Desilets said.
“We’re a different team than we’ve been and we’re really trying to work on our defensive skills. It definitely paid off today.”
Even against a Bernardians team that boasts some elite scoring capability, the North Middlesex defense was just that good.
Katie Babineau played masterfully in net, which is becoming the norm, allowing just two goals in the first half and posting a shutout in the second half. The three-year starter stopped the vast majority of the free position shots she faced.
The Patriot backline was strong as well, limiting potential scoring threats, clearing the zone and coming up with ground ball recoveries after shots. “This is Babineau’s third year on varsity, and she started as a freshman,” Desilets said.
“She did a great job today, and was stepping to the ball, and really sliding.”
The offense was strong and consistent for the Patriots.
Just two minutes in, Sam Donohoe sliced her way through a crowd, crossing in front of the net for a pretty marker. A minute later Hannah Nolan was the recipient of a nice pass in transition, which made it 2-0 in the blink of an eye.
The St. Bernard’s defense clamped down, forcing silence for seven minutes.
But with 14:24 left, Kaycee Cokonis took advantage of a free position opportunity, bumping the lead to 3-0.
St. Bernard’s seemed to get a little fuel from the marker after the good defensive stance, as Annie Makie ripped a low shot home, making it 3-1 with 13:50 left in the half.
As quickly as it seemed that St. Bernard’s was climbing back, North Middlesex stepped it up a notch, and put the game away. During a 90-second span just after the Bernardian marker, three Patriots scored free-position goals, with two coming from Molly O’Neill and another from Danielle Kozloski to push the lead to 6-1.
Almost exactly a minute after the onslaught ended, St. Bernard’s Kelly Connors scored to stunt the run.
But North Middlesex had more in the tank, as Cokonis scored on a free-position shot, and shortly afterward, O’Neill collected a rebound and fired it home.
With just 34 seconds left, the demoralizer came. O’Neill wrapped around the net and stuffed the goal home, to make it a commanding 9-2 lead at half-time.
“North Middlesex is a strong team and their defense is what you aspire to be at the high-school level,” St. Bernard’s head coach Leslie Jaffie said.
“They knew where to be and had the lacrosse IQ. Our attack hasn’t seen a defense that strong yet and I think it’s a good learning experience for us.” A little teamwork early continued the North Middlesex surge in the second half, as Cokonis found Chloe Wespiser for the early marker.
Wespiser did it alone next, making the most of a second-chance opportunity that made it 11-2 with 15:01 left.
Two minutes later, Donohoe stormed the net and fired it in high, pushing the lead to 10 goals.