Girls’ lacrosse playoff preview: Bow leading the way in Division III; Hopkinton and Concord Christian not far behind

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 05-30-2023 1:27 PM

Few teams have been more dominant in any sport this spring than Bow girls’ lacrosse. At 15-1, the Falcons only loss came against Division I Portsmouth. Otherwise, Bow has played almost flawless lacrosse since the start of the season, outscoring opponents, 275-72.

On offense, senior Alex Larrabee and junior Olivia Selleck have led the way for Bow all season. Larrabee will be playing NCAA Division I lacrosse at Colgate University beginning next year.

“She has a lot of different moves with the stick,” Bow head coach Chris Raabe said of Larrabee after the Falcons’ season-opening win over Hopkinton. “She brings it through all the levels. She’s got some fakes. She’s got good footwork, and her shot is wicked.”

Overall, though, Raabe’s hoped to see more poise from her team around the opposing cage, not feeling forced to take shots. It’s not an area super noticeable to a casual observer – after all, Bow’s beating opponents by an average of nearly 13 goals per game. But entering the playoffs, these subtleties become magnified.

“Sometimes we’re forcing the ball,” Raabe said after her team’s win over Coe-Brown on May 5. “We can force it because of the competition that we've had. With better competition, we can't throw that ball. I don't know if they're getting anxious or restless in doing it, (but) on some passes on the inside I'd like to see improvement.”

But one area Raabe’s never had to worry about this season: her team’s effort and focus. That, paired with the team’s overall talent, should make Bow the team to beat in the Division III bracket.

“They just love the game,” Raabe said. “The whole team, all they want to do is play lacrosse. They kind of motivate themselves.”

A few spots behind Bow in the standings resides Hopkinton, the defending Division III champions who beat Bow in that final game last year, before the Falcons beat the Hawks, 19-8, to open this season.

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It’s been a transitional year for Hopkinton, after former head coach Mike Zahn stepped aside and new co-head coaches Gus Madden and Bob Brown took over. But the Hawks have found their groove down the stretch, ending the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.

In an 18-10 win against Concord Christian on May 16, the Hawks showed tremendous improvement after their struggles early in the year. Success on draw controls stood out as a key factor.

“Sydney Westover has been huge on the draw possessions for us,” Madden said following the CCA win. “And that’s not just her. The middies, Katie Brown, Ava Burns, Sarah Chodosh on the circle, they make the difference in winning those ground balls so we could get possession.”

Meanwhile, CCA, playing in its first season as a varsity program, sits in fifth in the division and has the athletes to potentially make a run in this year’s tournament.

Led by Sarah and Megan Muir, CCA wrapped up the season winning four games in a row.

Head coach Janine Muir has generally been pleased with the effort all year, but the loss to Hopkinton in mid May provided a reminder that there are still areas for the team to improve. In particular, staying composed.

“Our defense seemed to get a little lost, and there was some clogging up, losing sight of a player and the ball,” Muir said after that game. “I think that (Hopkinton) just got in their head a little bit.”

Regardless of how far in the playoffs Muir’s group goes, though, merely qualifying for the playoffs near the top of the standings serves as an achievement in its own right.

“It’s definitely been a really positive season so far,” she said. “We’ve played some strong games, and we’ve had some really good wins.”

At 7-8, Kearsarge snags one of the final postseason spots. The Cougars started the season 5-2, before dropping five in a row. Since, they’ve won two of the final three games.

“Kearsarge found heart and hustle today, and worked hard for the W on Senior Night,” head coach Katherine Bucklin Stearns told the Monitor after the team’s win over Bishop Brady on May 18. “Teamwork is coming together – especially tonight. A well deserved win.”

For the Giants, they’re competing with Coe-Brown for the 11th and final playoff spot. Both teams finished the season 5-10. 

Under first-year head coach Alex Sacco, Bishop Brady significantly improved from last year’s 1-13 campaign.

And after kicking off 2023 with a five-game losing streak, the Giants reeled off five wins over the final 10 games to put themselves in position for a playoff berth.

“This was a huge win for us,” Sacco told the Monitor after a recent 15-10 win over Milford. “The girls stepped it up on both sides of the ball and showed how badly they wanted this win. We worked as a team and stayed focused on that common goal. I’m very proud of this team, and how they turned this game around and stayed composed.”

Coe-Brown, meanwhile, started the season 2-2 before dropping eight of the next 11 games. One area for optimism for the Bears for the future: goalie Alexis Muse.

“Alexis is a really important part of the team,” head coach Kristin Cimino said after the Bears lost to Bow, 19-0, on May 5. “She makes some really great stops. She’s vocal. She's a sophomore. I look forward to the next couple years with her. … I can't say enough about her play and what she does for us.”

In Division II, the area will have two participants: Merrimack Valley and the John Stark-Hillsboro-Deering co-op. 

A team that finished 2022 just 2-12, the Pride turned things around this year, wrapping up the schedule 8-6 in head coach Kylie Yam’s second season.

“It’s really nice,” she said after the team beat Pembroke on April 18 to surpass last year’s win total. “We had a rebuilding year last year, so you’re wondering when you’re going to see the improvement and the change, and it seems like we already are. It’s good that it’s happening early in the season.”

As for John Stark/Hillsboro-Deering, the first-year co-op has floated around .500 and catapulted itself into the playoffs thanks in part to a mini three-game winning streak to close out the regular season at 7-7.

Girls’ lacrosse playoffs begin on Tuesday night with the preliminary round.

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