TOWNSEND -- The first three games of the season have been a learning experience for the North Middlesex girls' lacrosse team.
North Middlesex has six players who have no previous lacrosse experience, but in its fourth game of the year, against Tyngsboro, the Patriots learned what it feels like to win.
"It's very exciting," North Middlesex head coach Margaret Nickless said about winning the home opener. "We play in the tough Mid-Wach B Division, and it is nice to pick up that first win of the year at home. The physical nature of the game impacts the girls in how they play. They're a very tight-knit group and they do a tremendous job of picking each other up." North Middlesex freshman goalie Katie Babineau, who also had no previous playing experience prior to the start of the season, made 21 saves to secure Friday's 14-11 victory over Tyngsboro.
The Tigers took the early lead 27 seconds in on a wicked strike from inside the circle by Monique Martin. Martin blazed through a sea of Patriot defenders and blasted her shot in the bottom right corner of the mesh to make it 1-0, Tyngsboro.
That would be the only time North Middlesex would trail in this one.
A little over three minutes later, Kimmie Zuccaro responded for North Middlesex with the equalizer.
Zuccaro dipped and slung the shot over the stick of Tyngsboro goalkeeper Brianna Day-Lewis. Zuccaro's goal was the start of a 3-0 flurry for the Patriots who took a 3-1 lead off a dead center strike in traffic by Maddie Ozog (team-high three goals) at 6:41 of the first half. Tiger center Hailey Cairey broke free in transition a little over a minute later to bring Tyngsboro within a goal.
Cairey beat Babineau high right to trim the Patriots' lead to 3-2 with 17:08 left in the first half. North Middlesex closed the half on a 6-2 run. The Patriots held a 9-4 lead at the end of one.
In the second half, the physicality started to ramp up for both teams.
North Middlesex continued to put the pressure on the Tiger defense in the opening minutes of the second half. Molly TenBroeck helped facilitate the Patriots' first tally of the second half with a stellar pass from behind the cage to Danielle Kozlowski (2 goals, 2 assists), who seamlessly found an opening on the left side of the cage.
Two minutes later, Kaycee Cokonis cashed in on a pass from Mackenzie Gray (2 goals, 1 assist) to push the Patriots' lead to seven goals, 11-4, with 18:07 remaining in the game.
Tyngsboro responded with three consecutive goals by Martin (game-high 4 goals) and Jackie Richardson, who had two in the sequence. With less than five minutes remaining, the Patriots took two major penalties and played man-down for a healthy portion of the final minutes. However, North Middlesex stood tall and a goal by Ozog with 3:39 remaining proved to be the back-breaker for Tyngsboro.
"We played very strongly at the end and pulled out the win," Nickless said. "We have a lot of new girls this season who have never played lacrosse before. Shalee Callahan is one of them. She has picked up the sport very quickly."