For Arlington Catholic junior goalie Megan Messuri, the school semester doesn’t really start until her skates hit the ice.
Her final moment on the ice last season included a jaw-dropping glove save at TD Garden, securing a win over St. Mary’s and the Cougars’ first Division 1 state championship since 2007.
This season, the defending champions will have some work to do. Arlington Catholic debuts at No. 3 in the season’s first Globe rankings.
The Cougars lost seven seniors from the championship roster, leaving a hole in the offense, which Messuri called a “work in progress.”
“We need to teach our younger kids to play with grit,” said Messuri, who finished last season with All-Scholastic honors and a 1.10 goals-against average. “It’s going to be hard but we have a shot. The older kids are trying to carry on with intensity.”
Pressure will fall on Adrieana Rossini, who scored a goal in the championship game, to shape the young talent. The Cougars have already been tested, falling, 4-1, to St. Mary’s in Wednesday’s rematch.
“We played our best game of the year,” said coach Maggie Taverna. “The score doesn’t reflect that, but the quality of the plays was outstanding. Come February it’ll be more exciting to watch us play them.”
With its last of three straight state championships in 2010, Frank Pagliuca is trying to get No. 5 St. Mary’s back to the top. The Spartans return 10 players to their roster of 16, including Kaleigh Finigan and Lauren Skinnion.
Brittani Lanzilli left St. Mary’s and returned to Medford, where she collected her 200th career point earlier this season. The Spartans, who had a 100-game unbeaten streak from 2008 through 2010, have been tested against the state’s best and had mixed results.
St. Mary’s skated to a 2-2 tie against No. 4 Woburn, which is anchored by Middlesex League co-MVP Kayla Smith (165 career points) and goalie Courtney Davis (seven shutouts and a 1.25 GAA last winter). The Spartans lost to two-time defending Division 2 champion Duxbury, 4-1. And of course, the win over Arlington Catholic earlier this week.
While St. Mary’s loss to Duxbury was a cause for concern at the Lynn school, it was a boost of confidence for Duxbury, which holds the No. 1 spot in the rankings.
Green Dragons goalie Rachel Myette is a force to be reckoned with, having led the state last season with eight shutouts and a 0.90 GAA. Duxbury coach Friend Weiler has a young team, but it has capable leaders in captains Myette and Hannah Murphy, a UMass-Amherst lacrosse commit who has led the Dragons in scoring the past two seasons.
“Having a target on our back, we’ll get the best with everyone we play and we need to be ready and give our all,” said Myette, whose team is riding a 30-game unbeaten streak. “The pressure is incredible.”
As for St. Mary’s, an even bigger test comes Saturday night against 2010 Division 1 state champion Hingham. The No. 2-ranked Harborwomen (3-0) are loaded, including last winter’s second-leading scorer in the state, Jane Freda (63 points).
Freda is looking to go further than last season’s Division 1 state semifinal, a 4-3 shootout loss to St. Mary’s. The Middlebury commit set the tone for this season with a hat trick in the Harborwomen’s opening win over Medway/Ashland.
Accompanying her on the front line are returners Catherine Linehan and Samantha Ryder. Alexandria Gong and Tori Messina spearhead the back line with Taylor Walsh in net.
Freda knows the rematch with St. Mary’s is important.
“We hope to come out on top,’’ said Freda, who had 31 goals last winter. “They’ve just had rough games, but we won’t underestimate them.”
For the Spartans’ Alison Butler, there are no nerves.
“We’re working hard every day to get back to states. [Coach Pagliuca] believed in us from the beginning and will continue to and he knows we’ve got what it takes to win.”