CUMBERLAND — The top-seeded Burrillville girls lacrosse team's air-tight defense felt like an unnecessary luxury during a regular season where the undefeated Broncos routinely hammered teams by more than 10 goals.
In Sunday afternoon's Division III title contest against No. 2 Toll Gate at Tucker Field, goalie Regan Polacek and her well-drilled defensive core led by sophomores Morgan Rainville and Emily Allard proved to be the difference.
For the first time all season the young Broncos faced real adversity when the Titans scored the game's first three goals, but then Polacek and her teammates took over. Toll Gate scored just two goals – including just one from open play – over the final 45 minutes, while sophomore middie Allie Trimble scored a hat trick and sophomores Samantha Murphy and Katie Potter each scored a pair of goals in a 9-5 championship victory.
“It feels good because I faced a lot of shots today,” said Polacek, a junior who made 10 saves, including seven in the second half when the Broncos were nursing a small lead for the first 16 minutes of the half. “I usually don't get as many as I did in this game. We knew they were going to come out stronger in the second half than they did in the first, so those saves were very necessary.”
“It was definitely a lot more stressful back there, but it was worth it because it feels great to show what we can do, instead of just kind of standing there the whole game,” Rainville said. “We came together after they took the lead and we just stayed talking. The second we got back in the game, we got our heads in the game and knew what we needed to do.”
Burrillville (14-0) was only truly tested twice this season and both times came against the talented Titans. The title win was the Burrillville's first division title in the six-year history of the program. And Sunday could be just the beginning because nearly every player who played a part in this season's historic run had never played a varsity lacrosse game.
Because of the pandemic, this season's sophomores never got the chance to play last season, but they made up for lost time. The sophomore were joined by a great group of freshmen, led by Jenna Forrest, who delivered the best pass of the match to Murphy to make the score 8-5. Emilia Ferraro and Olivia Fullam also logged plenty of varsity minutes.
“This feels amazing and it's definitely well deserved,” Murphy said. “If we go to D-II next year I want to win D-II.”
Toll Gate (13-2) played some tight games at the beginning of the season, but the Titans were playing their best lacrosse going into the final. The visiting side did something no team has done this season – put the Broncos only their heels early, as senior Cassie Cirella scored just a minute into the game and junior maddie Madison Clark finished a free-position shot less than a minute later.
After freshman Adeline Areson scored, the Broncos finally responded with a Potter tally. Toll Gate rebuilt its three-goal lead when the Broncos finally settled down, started winning face-offs and made better passes in the offensive third of the field.
“I was worried at first because we always score first,” Trimble said. “I think the first five minutes were all about the nerves and the reason we got scored on. After the timeout [a mandatory break because of the heat] we picked our heads up. We started to build more trust and have more confidence in each other.”
As the defense tightened up, the offense started to find a rhythm. Murphy and Trimble each passes for back-to-back goals and then Trimble tied the game at the 12-minute mark with a free-position shot. Late goals from Potter and Trimble sent the Broncos into the break with a two-goal advantage.
Cirella made it 6-5 with a free-position shot 9:50 into the second half, but that was the last time Polacek raked the ball out of her net.
“We really started to work together defensively as the game went along,” said Rainville, a Call-Times All-Area selection in field hockey. “We had to make sure we could slide on them when they attacked and we had to make sure we knew who to double team and we had to stay back. I had trust in us because we've been together so long. I don't know if I expected us to do this, but I knew we had it in us.”
Fullam rebuilt the two-goal lead with a free-position finish at 37 minutes and then Forrest put the game away with the best pass of the afternoon. The freshman drew a pair of defenders on the right side and made a pass to Murphy in stride for the sophomore to finish to increase the lead to three.
“Jenna drew the two defenders to her so I saw there was an opening in the middle and I just ran to the lane and she passed it to me,” Murphy said.
Sophomore Madeline LaSata finished the scoring at 47:20 and 2:40 later the young Broncos celebrated their first title and secured a celebratory parade later in the afternoon starting at the middle school, just like the boys team the day before.
“We've been working for this since second grade together,” Trimble said. “We've always been together as a lacrosse team, so this has been our goal and our dream.”
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello