Milestones are nice
But the milestone on the mind of Mount Greylock junior Ainsley Abel on Saturday was not the one that they brought out mylar balloons to celebrate.
“We made history today,” Abel said after the Mounties defeated Granby, 20-13, in the Western Massachusetts Class C Championship game at Berkshire Community College. “Number one in Western Mass in lacrosse. And we wanted it.
“We wanted to play and win as a team. We’re such a unit. And obviously, we wanted to win after being runner-up the last three years. We wanted that next step.”
Abel played a big part in helping the Mounties make that step by making a little history of her own, scoring her 100th career goal with just less than six minutes left in the second half.
Unlike a lot of those milestone achievements, this one did not come with the obligatory timeout and in-game celebration.
Because this one came when the game still was very much hanging in the balance.
Abel’s 99th career goal moments earlier snapped a three-goal Rams run that got them within one at 14-13.
Her 100th made it a three-goal cushion, and the Mounties rode the momentum to get the last three goals – including one more from Abel – to make the game appear not nearly as close as it was.
“It definitely came at a good time,” Abel said of No. 11. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way than for it to come in a pressure situation like that.”
Abel said she arrived at the game on Saturday and had to ask her teammates who the celebratory balloons were for. She then realized that she was sitting on 97 goals for her career, but she kept that information in the back of her mind as the title game commenced.
It was just as well, because Granby did not come for a party.
The Rams matched the Mounties goal for goal in the opening stages, taking their last lead at 6-5 on a goal by Ella Laliberte in the 11th minute.
Sarah Polumbo tied the game on a free position opportunity about a minute later, and senior Tess Leveque converted an assist from classmate Zoe Armet to give Mount Greylock the lead for good at 7-6 with 11 minutes, 20 seconds left in the half.
Abel scored her first of the game in what became a six-goal Mount Greylock run to open an 11-6 lead before Granby closed to within three goals at half-time.
The lead stayed around four goals in the opening minutes of a lower-scoring second half before Laliberte scored on a free position with 13:31 left to play to ignite a three-goal Granby run that got the Rams’ deficit down to 14-13.
That’s when Abel took over, scoring three times in the Mounties’ 6-0 run to end the game.
At the other end, Christy Rech stopped seven shots to earn the win in goal for Mount Greylock, which is seeded ninth in this week’s Division 4 state tournament and opens play on Wednesday at home against No. 24 Lynnfield.
Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks in the state tourney, the Mounties know that they will be hanging a long-sought banner when all is said and done.
“This feels special because I took a couple of years off [from coaching], and now I’m back,” said Jeff Stripp, the longtime coach of the Mount Greylock boys program who helped lead the charge to bring the sport to the school and the county. “I’ve always wanted to coach the girls game, and now I’m there, and I’m so excited about it.
“I’m so excited about it. This is a great group to work with. This team has been knocking on the door for Western Mass for a couple of years. They really wanted it. That was our first goal.”