TEWKSBURY — The journey to the Division 1 North finals was certainly more enjoyable for Lawrence than Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to unbeaten Winchester.
And it was just as noteworthy.
“I told the team that we ought to be celebrating,” said Lawrence coach Marino Valdez. “To get to the North finals after winning it last year, and losing seven seniors, is a great accomplishment.
“We only have three seniors this year. We’re like a team of rookies, and maybe the pressure was too much tonight.”
No. 1 seed Winchester (24-0) had several advantages over the Lancers. The Sachems boasted more experience, greater height led by 6-footer Camille Tosques and a senior setter, Dasha Smolina, to match Lawrence standout setter Vielka Sanchez.
“They’re a very good team and this was like a war between two great setters,” said Marino.
Indeed, while Sanchez led the Lancers (18-3) with 25 assists, Smolina delivered 36 for the Sachems, but then again, she seemed to have more weapons to set up.
Tosques finished with 13 kills to go along with eight blocks and junior Tia Fiorentino and freshman Lauren Tian were also forces with eight kills each.
For Lawrence, Elize Pena led with seven kills.
“I felt to be successful we had to be aggressive and find open spots on the floor,” said Winchester coach John Stanley. “I felt, for the most part, we did that.”
Lawrence did get off to a good start in the first game, leading 8-6, but an 11-5 Winchester run at that point turned the game around, and the Sachems, prevailed, 25-20, showing fine defense to accompany more put aways.
The second game again stayed close until the midpoint but an 8-3 surge put the Sachems in control and they finished the game with an 8-1 run to win, 25-17.
The Lancers did turn things around in the third game, using their own surge (10-3) in the middle to take control. Carol Ferreras had six service points in the game including two of her team-high four aces. And Pena finished off a 25-22 Lawrence win with a terrific kill.
One would think that would give the Lancers some momentum heading into Game 4, but the opposite took place as the Sachems zoomed out to an insurmountable 13-0 lead and then coasted, winning 25-15.
Winchester advances to Wednesday’s state semifinals against perennial power and South champion Barnstable (20-2) while Lawrence will start preparing for another fine season in 2020.
“We definitely have a good future and I’m proud of what we did this year with only three seniors,” said Marino. “We didn’t have our best game, especially on defense, but they (Winchester) are a good team.”
Winchester 3, Lawrence 1
Division 1 North Finals
Kills: W — Camille Tosques 13; L — Elize Pena 7
Blocks: W — Tosques 8; L — DeJalee Torres 2
Assists: W — Dasha Smolina 36; L — Vielka Sanchez 25
Aces: L — Carol Ferreras 4
Digs: L — Amaiya Lu 15; W — Lia Cagnetta 23, Tia Fiorentino 19
Lawrence (18-3): 20 17 25 15 — 1
Winchester (24-0): 25 25 22 25 — 3