CHELMSFORD — Dodging not one, not two, but three Chelmsford defenders, North Andover sophomore Ainsley Dion slotted the ball past the Lions’ goalie, tying the game and bringing a glimmer of hope to the Knights, who up to that point had struggled to stay with Chelmsford.
The excitement was short-lived, as 20 seconds later the Lions regained the lead just shy of halftime. They never relinquished it.
Missed opportunities and sheer bad luck ensured the Knights wouldn’t find their way back into Tuesday’s Division 1 North semifinal, as they fell to the Lions, 14-8.
“It was a hard-fought game,” North Andover coach Meredith Prior said. “Things go your way and things don’t. I’m just proud of my girls, of how they fought all season and how they kept fighting in this game.”
Chelmsford (19-4) kept North Andover (17-6) at arm’s length for much of the contest, thanks to multiple runs of three goals or more, including right at the start.
The Knights opened the game with the sun behind them, meaning attackers were staring straight into the light as defenders and midfielders came forward on clears and tried to push the ball forward. It influenced a handful of giveaways early on, leading to a 3-0 Chelmsford lead within five minutes of the first draw.
With less than three minutes to go in the first half, the Lions held a 7-3 lead, and looked poised to cruise to a comfortable win. North Andover had other ideas, though.
“We always talk about what we’re going to do for our team and control the controllable,” Prior said. “We were just trying to control what we could ... All the other stuff, we can’t control, so we’ve got to just play our game.”
Dion’s equalizer with 35 seconds left in the first half inspired hope, as it finished off a 4-0 North Andover run. But, Chelmsford’s goal with 15 ticks on the clock was something the Knights didn’t really recover from.
The Lions stifled the Knights, holding them scoreless for about 15 minutes to start the second half, and outscored them, 6-1, over the course of the last 25.
As North Andover desperately searched for any kind of momentum, the Knights were constantly hamstrung by turnovers, big saves from Chelmsford’s Morgan Wright and quite a few whistles that kept the ball in the visitors’ defensive end.
“I don’t think our shots were falling,” Prior said. “Their shots were, calls definitely weren’t going our way, and that’s just lacrosse.”
The contest’s final scoreline was a far cry from the two previous meetings between the teams during the regular season. Chelmsford won the first, 12-9, then North Andover topped the Lions, 11-9.
There was nothing different that Prior noticed or wasn’t prepared for in Tuesday night’s rubber match. Rather, the ball just didn’t bounce the way of the Knights this time around.
“Any given day, it would be a 50-50 shout for both of us,” Prior said. “Today was their day.”