LYNNFIELD — When the Lynnfield girls lacrosse team takes the field April 1 for its season opener against Cape Ann League rival Masconomet, the Pioneers will set their sights on another record-breaking year.
Last year, the team set records for most goals in a single season (222) and largest goal differential (+52). The Pioneers also notched their first-ever road tournament win, defeating Winthrop (13-4) in the first round of the Division 2 North state tournament.
While the season ended with a 15-3 loss in the quarterfinals to Newburyport, the team finished 12-8 (its second best record in program history) and had four players selected to the CAL All-Star team.
That loss brought with it the end of the road for three senior captains, who played key roles and will be tough to replace.
Attack/midfielder Liv Smyrnios led the front line with 59 goals and eight assists. Now playing at St. Anselm’s, Smyrnios scored her first collegiate goal March 9 in the Hawks’ 23-4 win over visiting Post University.
Gracie Sperling wreaked havoc all year long at midfield with 28 goals, 17 assists, 47 draw controls, 61 ground balls and 26 caused turnovers, while defenseman Hannah Filipe anchored the backfield.
“The three seniors were all big contributors for the last three years,” said Lynnfield coach Ethan Blanchette. “Losing their leadership may be more significant than anything else because they were strong personalities that did an excellent job as leaders of the team. But we’re also losing over 80 goals and a ton of caused turnovers, among other things.”
The good news is several key returners are back, including eight starters, beginning with senior co-captains, midfielder Sophia Ellis, attacker Ashley Barrett, defender Brianna Barrett and attacker Olivia Sarni.
Ellis and Ashley Barrett earned CAL All-Star honors last year with Barrett contributing 52 goals, 10 assists and 31 ground balls and Ellis adding 40 ground balls, 17 caused turnovers and 17 draw controls. Sarni contributed 47 goals, two assists, 15 ground balls and seven caused turnovers.
Other returning starters are junior defender Mac Schena, junior middie Tori Morelli and sophomore middie/attacker Jen Flynn. Sophomore goalie Grace Magno, senior Jenna Lannon, junior Shannon Pierce, junior Maddie Burke, junior Molly Ozanian and sophomore Ava O’Brien also return.
With Sperling gone, Morelli looks to be a key factor in all phases of the game, especially on the draw. She finished the 2018 season with eight goals and assists, 58 draw controls, 40 ground balls, 16 caused turnovers and 10 blocks.
“We have eight starters returning, and I would consider all of them high-quality players,” said Blanchette. “While they won’t all be all-stars, I could see any of the eight returners having an all-star caliber season.”
The Pioneers are loaded with promising new talent. Juniors Lexi Allain and Sydney Jean-Simon along with sophomores Molly Murphy, Maddie Murphy, Olivia Murphy (no relation) and Bella Scala moved up from the JV squad.
Blanchette said the team’s biggest need is filling in the vacancies on defense.
“The goals allowed total (170 last year), while higher than in past years was still excellent, as I believe we were in the top 45 in goals-against average out of over 200 teams,” Blanchette said. “We have a lot of goals to replace, but we have several players who will compete for playing time on attack. It’s the defense that has a few areas of need without obvious players to fill those spots.”
Blanchette had a chance to evaluate his team Sunday at the annual North Andover Play Day.
“We were short-handed and had only three subs, but that gave our younger players a great chance to get lots of playing time,” said Blanchette. “Plus, it was a chance to get in game shape and play at true game speed at the varsity level.”
Lynnfield’s 2019 schedule is competitive with nine non-league contests on the docket, including the last six of the season capped by an away match at Fenwick May 27.