ITEM PHOTO BY KATIE MORRISON
Liv Smyrnios drives past Ipswich’s Kelsey Daly.
By KATIE MORRISON
LYNNFIELD — The Ipswich Tigers have been a thorn in the side of the Lynnfield girls lacrosse team since last season.
The Tigers denied the Pioneers the chance for their first playoff win in last year’s Division 2 North tournament, as Ipswich won, 17-7, in the first round of sectionals.
Tuesday at Pioneer Stadium, the Tigers were at it again, as they rattled off nine unanswered goals en route to a 14-3 victory over the Pioneers.
“I thought we gave a very good effort, and I thought we deserved better than what the final score was,” Lynnfield coach Ethan Blanchette said. “At the end of the game, it just got a little out of hand. I thought overall, the team played well.”
Throughout the first half, it was a tight contest. Ipswich’s Annie Gillis opened the scoring five minutes in, and Lynnfield responded five minutes later as Liv Smyrnios found Lilli Patterson in front of the net.
The Pioneers held off the Ipswich attack for another five minutes, thanks in part to huge saves by goalie Lauren Vaccaro. Lynnfield was able to put pressure on the Ipswich defense, but couldn’t find a way past it.
With 9:45 to play in the half, Ipswich’s Julia Glavin snuck one by Vaccaro. Meghan O’Connor won the draw for the Tigers, and found Gillis in front of the net for a quick goal.
Draw control was a big issue for the Pioneers, and has been throughout the season. It’s one of the areas they’ll need to work on in order to compete with Cape Ann League powers like Ipswich and Newburyport.
“We really struggled on the draws, that was a big factor,” Blanchette said. “They really controlled the draws, and we couldn’t keep possession because of that.
Less than a minute after Gillis’ goal made it 3-1, Caitlyn Stevens added to the lead on a free position shot. Blanchette took a timeout to regroup.
It helped, as Lynnfield won the draw and had something going on offense. Smyrnios had a goal called back for an infraction, and the Pioneers had to play a man down, but they killed the penalty. At the end of a long possession, Elise Murphy scored off a pass from Olivia Sarni to make it 4-2 with 1:11 to play.
Ipswich scored two quick goals to end the half up, 6-2.
Lynnfield opened the second half on the right foot as Ashley Barrett scored on a free position shot just a minute and a half into the action. Just a minute later, Delaney Whooley responded for Ipswich and that opened the floodgates.
The Tigers dominated the second half, and took advantage of Lynnfield mistakes. Goals from Hannah Herron, Emma Moulton, Haley O’Connor, another two from Stevens, one more each from Gillis, Glavin and Whooley put the game out of reach for Lynnfield.
“Pretty much, it’s been the same things we’ve struggled with,” Blanchette said. “Not being able to control the draws, and transition, getting the ball up from the defensive end to the attacking third. Those two areas are the two biggest that we’ve struggled with. The girls work really hard, and I think if we could have more of the possession, and take care of the ball, get it to our attacking third, and win a few more draws and hold onto possession more, we’ll be in good shape.”
One shining star from the loss was Vaccaro, who logged more than 10 saves, many from point-blank range.
“She (Vaccaro) made a lot of great saves,” Blanchette. “She played goal last year for us, and she worked really hard, and she’s even better this year. She’s had some big games, come through in big spots.”
The Pioneers will look to shake this one off at Triton Friday. While Lynnfield has already clinched a tournament berth at 9-4, that doesn’t mean its work is done.
Lynnfield has yet to host, or win, a playoff game, so the next order of business is trying to secure the best seed possible.