Crusaders drop season-opener at Algonquin

By Ed Niser

eniser@nashobapub.com

SOUTHBORO -- When Groton-Dunstable and Algonquin last met a season ago, a berth in the Division 1 Central Mass. Finals was on the line. On Tuesday, the stakes were not nearly as high.

The Lady Crusaders hoped to avenge their 16-8 semifinals loss in the season-opener for both teams, but it simply was not in the cards. Groton-Dunstable under first-year varsity head coach Sarah Valacer looked strong in all facets of the game, however, Algonquin managed to hold on for an 18-14 victory at 911 Memorial Field. The Groton-Dunstable senior duo of Nicki Wilkinson and Liv Rubeski carried the Lady Crusader offense with six-goals each.

"I am very happy with the way the girls played," Valacer said. "I am very impressed with the way the girls played today after being in the gym for the last two weeks. Defensively and on the attack we have some things to work on, but they are progressively getting better. It was great to have Nicki and Rubeski play the way they did today, but we would like for some other players to come around."

Algonquin backed the Lady Crusader defense into a corner going up 7-2 10 minutes into the opening half with goals from Kendyl Finnelli and Amanda Murphy. Wilkinson kick-started a 4-0 Groton-Dunstable run with a free position strike from the center hashmark at 12:11. Wilkinson beat the Algonquin goalkeeper with a low winding shot that snuck inside the left post. Rubeski also added a pair of goals in the stretch to bring Groton-Dunstable back within one at 7-6. Groton-Dunstable sixth goal came out of the stick of Rubeski with 8:17 remaining in the half.

Rubeski scored off of the free position with a goal that snuck under the crossbar. Wilkinson tied the game at 7-7, 32 seconds later, when she beat the Algonquin keeper low right. Algonquin outscored Groton-Dunstable 4-1 in the final three minutes of the first half. The Tomahawks carried a slim11-8 lead into the half-time intermission.

The Lady Crusaders wasted little time getting their offense firing on all cylinders at the start of the second half. Wilkinson scored at 1:30 of the second half with a shifty goal from 12 yards out. Finnelli answered for Algonquin with a pair of lightning strikes to extend the Tomahawks' advantage to four at 13-9. Valacer's Lady Crusaders refused to pack it in. Rubeski and Wilkinson potted back-to-back unanswered tallies to bring their team within two, 13-11.

Groton-Dunstable drew within one later in the half with a goal from Sara Walsh. Walsh collected a great pass from Wilkinson and dumped it underneath the crossbar. Algonquin ended the game on a 4-1 run with goals from Jackie Healy, Maggie Wraight, Julia Insani and Steph McGovern. Livy Penney netted the final tally for the Lady Crusaders. Rubeski notched a game-high two assists for Groton-Dunstable. Lady Crusaders' sophomore goalie Maria Antonellis turned away 10 shots in the loss.

Algonquin and Groton-Dunstable will meet again on May 19 in Groton.

Groton-Dunstable's next scheduled game is against North Middlesex on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Field conditions in Groton were damp and unfit for play. Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/@EdNiser for updates regarding postponements and other sports updates from around the Nashoba Valley.