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Lancers blast Senators, 5-1

WEST SPRINGFIELD — It didn’t take long for Longmeadow High School to show Mahar Regional School why it not only holds the distinction of being the defending WMass Division I field hockey champions, but also the odds-on favorite to defend its title.

The top-seeded Lancers poured on the pressure early and broke through for three goals in the opening eight minutes before the fourth-seeded Senators even knew what hit them, and they advanced to the WMass Division I championship game with a 5-1 semifinal victory on a chilly night at Clark Field.

The echo of the National Anthem had barely cleared when Mary Lemay gave a preview of what was to come by stealing the ball from an Athol defender near midfield and appeared to be off to the races toward the Mahar goal. Senator sweeper Alexi Rosado played the ball well, however, getting a stick in to disrupt the would-be breakaway and causing Lemay to hit it off her shin, which brought a whistle.

A one minute later, as the clock ticked toward the three-minute mark, Lemay got the Lancers’ first chance of the night by taling a shot in front from seven yards outs that forced Mahar goalie Nate Ollari (nine saves) to make a kick save.

“Longmeadow was very good today,” Mahar coach Lauri Saisi said. “They were very quick, very fast. They came out hard, strong, hitting hard, pushing everything. Every time the whistle blew they were taking off and my kids were barely picking their heads up. I just felt like we were a step behind.”

The Senators (17-3-0) could only weather the storm for so long. When Longmeadow was awarded its first corner of the game just past the four-minute mark, it finally broke through. The corner was played to the left of the Mahar goal and sent across to the right side, where Jessie Moriarty lined up a shot that beat Ollari to the near-post. The ball ricocheted off the post behind Ollari and out to the left side of the goal, where Lemay was waiting to easily push it into the wide-open cage 4 minutes, 42 seconds in.

The Longmeadow bench was still celebrating the goal when the Lancers struck again only 31 seconds later, this time when Kit Rosen found a bouncing ball in front of the net and swatted it toward Ollari. The ball took a big hop and found its way past the embattled netminder for a 2-0 lead.

It looked like Longmeadow had gone up 3-0 at the six-minute mark when Caroline O’Reilly fired a shot from the top of the circle that got past a diving Ollari. The forward was ruled to have taken the shot from outside the circle, though, and the goal was disallowed. The Lancers went up 3-0 for real 7:44 into the game when they were awarded another corner. This time Lemay played the ball to Moriarty at the top of the circle, where she settled it and slid a pass just to her left, where Rosen was waiting for a one-timer past Ollari to the lower left corner.

“We just got burnt bad,” Saisa said. “My girls didn’t give up, which I’m proud of them for, but we were just outplayed.”

The rest of the half went quietly. Longmeadow was content to sit back and dare Mahar to try to get back into the game. The result was a defensive statement that sent the game into the half at 3-0. That lasted only 42 seconds into the second half, when Longmeadow added to its already sizable lead when a scramble in front found the stick of Lemay and her shot went off a rogue stick, sending it up in the air and rainbowing over the head of Ollari, who tried in vain to leap up and swat the ball he could only watch fall under the crossbar and into the goal.

Four minutes later, Longmeadow struck again, this time when O’Reilly sent a ball across the goal front to Moriarty, who stuck out her stick and redirected it nicely into the net.

Mahar managed to get some life back 6:52 in as Jenelle Juskiewicz sent a pass across the front of the net, where Mahar forwards Ally Parker and Colleen Burke were parked. Both players made a play at the ball, but it was Burke who redirected it through the legs of Longmeadow goalie Kelly Payne (three saves) for the only Mahar goal.

Longmeadow will face Northampton High School in Saturday’s championship game.

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