HOLDEN -- The Lady Crusaders defied the odds this season as they qualified for the district tournament with just two seniors on their roster. Groton-Dunstable experienced a tough draw in the opening round of the tournament when it traveled to Wachusett Monday evening. The Lady Mountaineers saw six different players tally goals in their 6-3 victory over Groton-Dunstable.
For second-year Groton-Dunstable head coach Steven Naboicheck, it was all-in-all a successful season.
"They definitely overachieved," Naboicheck said of his team. "We were ranked fifth-place in our first season in Division one. To finish in second place in our league is not too shabby."
Five minutes in, Wachusett's Joanna Roberts scored the game's first goal off a corner kick from the right side. Roberts settled the ball and chipped it with impeccable precision over the outstretched hands of Groton-Dunstable goalkeeper Elysa Briggs.
Six minutes later, Olivia Rubeski gave the large Groton-Dunstable contingent something to cheer about. Rubeski baited Wachusett senior goalkeeper Rebecca Mills off her line and charged in for the goal. Rubeski blazed in alongside junior midfielder Brianna Considine and created confusion in the box for the stalwart Wachusett defense.
Wachusett controlled possession for much of the second half. The Lady Mountaineers reclaimed the lead in the 22nd minute, when Nikki DiPilla chipped a shot inside the left post to give Wachusett a 2-1 advantage.
With 13:00 remaining in the half, senior captain Vicky Prescott peppered a shot off the shin of Mills, and it deflected back out in front of the net. Junior midfielder Kara Jussaume swooped in and cleaned deposited the loose change in the back of the cage to equalize the match at the conclusion of the first half, 2-2.
However, that would be as close as the Lady Crusaders would get. Lady Mountaineers midfielder Emma Mailman postmarked the eventual game-winner just 4:45 into the second half. Mailman nailed a curling chip-shot from 20-yards out to beat Briggs right side and put Wachusett ahead, yet again, 3-2.
Three more unanswered tallies from Riley Wilde, Meaghan Whalen and Anna Heeley upped the anti to 6-2, but the Lady Crusaders refused to call it quits in the final 15 minutes of the match.
It was Whalen who cashed in on a penalty kick after her initial shot clipped the hand of a Groton-Dunstable player inside the 18-yard box. Whalen stutter-stepped right, causing Briggs to react to the fake. Whalen then blasted the ball into the low-left corner of the net.
With the result of the match ultimately decided, Arianna Lacombe buried a highlight quality goal from long distance.
Lacombe made a hearty push down the right side of the pitch and cut the ball back inside around the 30-yard line. Lacombe put on the breaks and lifted a high-arcing shot of great difficulty over the head of Mills to cut the Lady Mountaineers' lead to 6-3.
But, Lacombe's goal was a positive note to end on for Naboicheck's Lady Crusaders.
"We have a lot of young players coming back," he said. "We are going to miss them (Prescott and Rubeski), but we will have players coming in with a lot of experience. Next year is going to be our year."