By Conor Walsh
---- — GLOUCESTER — Prior to the start of her team’s season, Gloucester girls lacrosse coach Amanda Levie described the Fishermen’s struggles over recent seasons as a rebuilding process.
That transition to relevance, Levie hoped, would bear fruit this season, as the Fishermen entered the new year with plenty of talent and experience.
Judging by yesterday’s season-opener against visiting Winthrop at Magnolia Woods, Levie’s optimism seems to have something behind it.
In that opener, the Fishermen came flying out of the gates and held the struggling Vikings in check, cruising to a 19-11 win behind eight goals from senior co-captain Melodie Orrell and seven goals from junior Caity O’Leary.
“This is a great way to start it,” Levie said. “I couldn’t ask for a better first game to have. I kind of did some tweaking around of positions, which is a great thing to be able to do in a first game, and the intensity and the effort from every single person was more than I can ask for.”
Early in the game, it seemed like it might be an absolute rout for the Fishermen. Gloucester scored at will, controlling possession through solid faceoff work and driving to the Winthrop net with ease.
With an early onslaught led by Orrell, O’Leary, Tess Destino and Laura Johnson, Gloucester jumped out to an 8-1 lead and was in complete control of the game.
From there, the field evened a bit, as Winthrop midfielders Jules Kennedy and Erin O’Leary led a late first-half push to cut the Gloucester lead to 11-5 at halftime.
The Vikings scored five of the first six goals in the second half to cut the lead to 12-10, and the lead that once appeared insurmountable was suddenly very much in jeopardy.
But that’s when Orrell took over. With her top-tier speed and a clear agitation at her team’s lead slipping away, Orrell willed her way to an impressive run that broke the Vikings’ will.
An unstoppable force for a roughly five-minute stretch, Orrell drove her way through the Winthrop defense with ease and notched five-consecutive goals to extend the Fishermen lead to 17-10.
O’Leary and Angela Marino tacked on late goals to further the lead and secure the Fishermen’s season-opening win, while Winthrop dropped to 0-4 on the year.
“I think that what happened when they came back is that they capitalized on 50/50 balls,” Levie said. “Winthrop outhustled us for that period of time, but I thought us being able to maintain the draw control was huge for us, because even when we did turn the ball over and they scored, we were able to maintain possession and get it back afterwards.”
Destino chipped in with two goals for the Fishermen while dominating the midfield, while senior co-captain Arianna Puopolo helped lock down the Gloucester defensive end and tacked on a goal of her own.
The Fishermen will look to build on their strong start Friday when they travel to Revere in another NEC battle.
There are still things for Gloucester to iron out, to be sure. But a season-opening win that combined dominant stretches with a strong comeback attempt that was successfully warded off is something for Gloucester to build on.
And, either way, a win’s a win.
“We were very strong in the first half and definitely dominated,” Levie said. “We did have a little period of time where we did let them come back and get it closer. It’s kind of a good way to have a first game. We came out so strong so we know we can assert our dominance that way but it also shows that we have the strength and intensity that they can rebound from an adverse situation.”