The Sun (Lowell)
STAR-STUDDED SENIOR CLASS POWERS LIONS
Chelmsford captures MVC title, off to roaring 14-3 start
It all started on a
LAWRENCE >> bus.
After the final game of last year’s season, there were 11 juniors sitting in their seats, completely disappointed with how their season went. Injuries, inexperience and subpar play kept the Chelmsford Lions girls lacrosse team from winning backto-back league titles, after taking the MVC and the Division 1 North crown in 2021.
“We were all on the bus ride together and we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to do something different next year.’ We put in a lot of work in the off-season with captains practices and stuff like that and we all had one common mindset and that was to do something special this year,” said senior tricaptain Tori Apostolakes.
And that something special happened Monday night.
Playing without two of its top players and trailing by two goals with 5:40 to go, the Lions (143) scored the game’s next three goals, and then ran out the clock in the final three minutes to come away with a thrilling 10-9 win over league rival Central Catholic. The Lions also captured the MVC Division 1 league title, finishing with a perfect 13-0 mark.
Had Chelmsford lost that game and Central went on to beat Haverhill in its last game, the Lions and Raiders would have shared the league title. Tricaptain Amelia Kelley (appendix removal) — who along with top defender Remore Serra (tore ACL the previous game) were on the sidelines — said the Lions would have none of that sharing business.
“It means everything. That was our first step of our overall goal this year and it feels amazing to achieve it,” Kelley said. “We came in here today and we knew that we could either be solo or co-champs and we decided that we wanted to be champs by ourselves — especially (after not winning the title) last year.
“Last year we had a lot of injuries and we were rebuilding, so it was tough. We have grown stronger because of it. This year we have put all of the pieces together as a team. Everyone has stepped up and all of that means winning a title.”
Serra will play field hockey at Umass in the fall.
Amazingly, eight members of the star-studded 11-person senior class will play lacrosse in college: Apostolakes (Endicott), Kelley (Iona), Grace Campo (Plymouth State), Shaylee Wright (Westfield State), Madelin Dunbar (Saint Anselm), Caitlin Walsh (Saint Anselm), Olivia Hall (Merrimack) and Maggie Loeber (Assumption).
Now in her seventh year as head coach, Ashley Rokas has led the Lions to three league titles (2018, 2021, 2023) as well as three Division 1 North Sectional championships (2018, 2019 and 2021) under the old playoff format.
“We didn’t get it last year, but we had (two before then) so this
is great,” said Rokas. “We had a lot of injuries and an off-year last year so I think we’re back. We have a team full of eleven seniors and they are out here to fight and to play for their teammates who were out.
“It’s always tough (to win a league title). If you look at the Power Rankings all (of the top Merrimack Valley Conference teams) are right up there in the (Division 1) power rankings. I don’t want to see (Central Catholic) again. They are a great team. I hope we don’t see them again in the playoffs. They’re very talented and always have been.”
Chelmsford was able to get past Central in part to the play of the team’s third captain, Tajia Bell. She was everywhere on the field, relentless in her pursuit of the ball, going to the net and finishing. The midfielder had two vital goals, but more importantly, she was the QB of the team’s offense.
“(Central Catholic) plays a really high-pressured defense and that’s kind of hard and you have to move and pass the ball quickly,” said Bell. “And make a lot of the double cuts that we were looking for. It all comes down to finding the open spaces in the back and fighting for those open (lanes to shoot).”
The Lions conclude their regular season with a nonleague game against Concord-carlisle on Thursday and then await the Division 1 statewide tournament pairings. The hope here is to go as deep as possible, with many fun bus rides ahead and no regrets.
“Just like we did (against Central Catholic) people need to step up, know their roles and places and
I have no doubt that we will do that. Everyone on this team cares very deeply about how far we go (in the playoffs), how we work as a team and we want to win. I don’t think we have any holes to fill,” said Kelley.