Just before the start of the biggest game in school history, Natick girls’ lacrosse coach Ashley Mabardy decided to make a change. The team’s defense had struggled all season. She decided the Red and Blue would go with a four-man defense if they started to get worn out.
The decision was the right one. Natick beat visiting Weymouth, 17-7, yesterday to clinch the program’s first state tournament berth.
‘‘Making adjustments 25 minutes before the game and having them work shows we’re ready to go on short notice,’’ Mabardy said. ‘‘Our seniors were so psyched and they wanted it so badly. They were willing to do anything to win.’’
The player Mabardy called on to switch positions and protect the second-half lead, however, was a freshman. Midfielder Megan Tingley, who usually is deployed as a defensive wing, switched to the point on defense to give the Red and Blue the boost they needed. Although Natick led, 11-2, at halftime, Mabardy said Weymouth’s speed was exhausting her players.
She didn’t want to take any chances.
‘‘We were getting burned in transition,’’ she said. ‘‘Normally, we rely on the attack wings to help out on defense, but it was too much for them in the first half. Knowing they had extra support on defense was really helpful. They communicated really well at the restraining line.’’
Tingley’s versatility and stamina allowed her teammates to get the rest they needed to close out the win.
‘‘She will do whatever you ask,’’ Mabardy said. ‘‘She can shadow players. Sometimes we’ll ask her to play man-to-man while everyone else is in zone. She’s quick enough to do it.’’
Tingley wasn’t the only player to lock down the Weymouth attack, though. Hayley O’Loughlin made 11 saves.
‘‘One of our biggest challenges has been goaltending,’’ Mabardy said. ‘‘We have three fairly new goalies, and it’s been a struggle. Halfway through the season, we went with our hockey goalie [O’Loughlin], who had played attack for us. She’s been great.’’
Junior wings Cat Steckbeck and Annie McElaney generated most of the offense. Steckbeck registered four goals and five assists and leads the team in both categories. McElaney added four goals and three assists.
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