MANCHESTER — The tenth seeded Manchester Essex girls lacrosse team hung tough against No. 2 Ipswich in the Division 2 North Quarter Finals Tuesday, but the Ipswich offense was just too tough.
Through 50 minutes of non-stop action, the Tigers made their moves at the right times and capitalized on every possession as if it were their last en route to a 13-11 victory over their Cape Ann League rivals, the Hornets.
Originally the contest was set to be played in Ipswich, given the Tigers' (No. 2) higher seed in the bracket. But weather postponements and wet conditions left the teams with no choice but to switch the location to the turf field at Manchester Essex High.
"I really, really wanted to play at home," said Ipswich head coach Greg Churchill, his team now 15-3 overall. "I don't want a give a team (in the playoffs) any opportunity. I told the girls that they earned that home seed, but our stadium was just too wet."
The win propels the Tigers into the semifinals tomorrow, where they'll host No. 3 Wayland High (15-4-1). The two teams know each other well as the Warriors defeated Ipswich by a goal during the regular season; prior to that, the Tigers knocked Wayland of the playoffs last year.
The Tigers have one of the more explosive offenses in the tournament and weren't afraid to turn it on right from the beginning yesterday, jumping out to a 9-4 advantage at halftime. Center Natalie Soliozy, who scored three of her four goals in the opening period, used her speed to dance around defenders and get open looks.
Defensively, the 10th-seeded Hornets (11-7) started the game with zone coverage, but quickly switched to man when Ipswich made an early run.
Ispwich's lead at the break wasn't enough, though, when the two teams took the field to start the second half as Manchester Essex netted five unanswered goals in a matter of seven minutes to tie the game.
It was the closest the Hornets would come to a lead. Churchill took a time out to regroup his team, and it worked as Manchester Essex never got any closer the rest of the afternoon.
Soliozy, a junior captain, took it upon herself to turn the tide.
"As soon as we came in for the time out, Natalie said to us that she'd get the draw for us," Churchill explained. "That was it for us. Then we got a couple of draws and we started to mix it up a bit."
Lauren Pitrowski then scored her third of the game, Nyra Constant netted her second and Soliozy her fourth as the Tigers got back to a three-goal lead in less than a minute to make it 13-9.
"Lauren is able to see the big picture on the field," said Churchill, "and Nyra did a great job up and down the sidelines being that transition pass for us."
Molly Markos, Brigid O'Flynn and Eliza Statile also scored single markers for Ipswich.
Ipswich High senior goalie Cass Balzer had nine saves in the win, including two from point-blank range off the stick of Manchester Essex's top scorer, Taylor Meek.
"Cass does a great job of mirroring the stick," added Churchill. "When she's on, she's on. She has an aggressive style, plays at the edge of the crease and does a good job at cutting off angles."
Meek, just a sophomore, finished with a game-high five goals. Brittany Smith netted three for Manchester Essex, including the goal the tied the game at 9-9 early in the second half.
"I loved it when we were able to make a run at it in the second," said Manchester Essex coach Sarah Holch. "Taylor is so a versatile player for us on both offense and defense. She really calms things down, sets up the plays and then takes controls for us.
"Ipswich is great team, but I was proud of the way we played and we stuck with them."