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| May 29, 2022

Massachusetts/Rhode Island Keeps Streak Going at USA Lacrosse Women's National Tournament

By Brian Logue | Photo by Kevin P. Tucker

BEL AIR, Md. — Margot Spatola didn’t coach the Massachusetts/Rhode Island team that won last year’s USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament, but she knew what she was getting into when she agreed to coach this year’s team.

After beating Long Island Metro 10-9 in the championship game of the Red Division at Cedar Lane Regional Sports Park, the Massachusetts/Rhode Island region has now won the top flight at the event three straight times and four of the last five events.

“Just being told we have a lot to live up to is definitely…we know that’s the case,” said Spatola, a former Boston College player who is also the head coach at Westwood (Mass.) High School. “We’re very fortunate to be held to that standard and the girls bring it every year. We very truly got the best of the best. They show up, they know what’s expected of them and they put it all out there in every game.”

Long Island Metro gave the defending champs everything they could ask for in the championship game. After Massachusetts/Rhode Island scored the first three goals of the game, Long Island continued to battle back, cutting the lead to one at halftime (7-6).

Avery Testa had a had trick for Long Island Metro, including one during a three-goal run in the second half gave her team a 9-8 lead on Megan Kenny’s goal with 12 minutes to play, but Fionna O’Keeffe tied the game for Massachusetts/Rhode Island with 9:41 left. Giulia Colarusso then scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 8:31 to go.

Colarusso scored three goals to lead Massachusetts/Rhode Island and following the game she was named as the winner of the Heather Leigh Albert Award as the tournament’s outstanding player. It was quite the start to the recruiting scene for the sophomore from Groton School (Mass.) after missing all of last year’s tournament season with a torn ACL. She wasn’t cleared for her high school season until two weeks before it started.

“I wanted to come out firing this summer and I was so lucky to be a part of such a great team,” Colarusso said. “We had the heart and we wanted it the most and we really showed out against Long Island.”

Colarusso was one of seven finalists for the HLA Award, joined by Tianna Griffin (Nation United 1), Megan Kenny (Long Island Metro 1), Ella Pauley (Georgia 1), Alex Reilly (Philly 1), Lauren Solis (D.C. Metro 1) and Zoey Stephens (Orange County).

Colarusso joined a long list of distinguished winners of the HLA Award that was established in 1994, including three North Carolina players that won the NCAA Division I championship later on Sunday — Ally Mastroianni, Jamie Ortega and Caitlyn Wurzburger.

“I’ve been watching them for as long as I can remember,” said Colarusso. “I’ll see something they do and I go in my backyard and immediately practice until I get it right. It’s just truly an honor. I never thought this would happen. I look up to them so much. They’re outstanding players and they deserve everything that’s come to them and I aspire to be like them someday.”

Some of the other HLA finalists also led their teams to championship.

Griffin helped Nation United 1 win the Blue Division, one of two championships for Nation United, a program aimed at creating more opportunities for girls of color to play the sport at a high level. In the Blue Division final, Nation United 1 pulled away from Philly 4 in the second half, posting a 14-8 victory. Griffin had four goals in the championship game victory. Mia Raucci had four goals for Philly 4.

Stephens provided the firepower in the second half as Orange County pulled away for an 8-4 victory over Massachusetts/Rhode Island 3 in the Yellow Division final. Stephens scored three of her game-high four goals in the second half and the squad from California also got a monster game from goalie Jenny Cardeno who made 15 saves.

The Green Division featured the best finish of the day with Virginia’s Sarah Carter Nowery scoring the game-winning goal with three seconds left to lead her team to a 14-13 victory over Philly 3. Catherine Pollard and Sarah Thomson each scored three goals for Virginia. Quinn Whitaker had three goals for Philadelphia, including the game-tying goal with 2:59 to play. Elizabeth Ellie Wisch also scored three times.

South Carolina completed a dominant showing in the tournament, beating Ohio 12-4 to win the Indigo Division. Evelyn Kitchin scored back-to-back goals and set the tone for South Carolina while Anne Edens and Henley Bredemann each scored three times. Ashley Shirilla led Ohio with a pair of goals.

In the Orange Division, Long Island Metro 2 held Philly 2 to just a single goal in the second half, breaking a 4-4 halftime tie to post a 7-5 victory. Tess Calabria powered the victory with four goals while Caitlin Haggerty had a goal and an assist. Molly Chorin scored twice for Philly 2.

Nation United claimed its other victory in the Violet Division with a strong second half in a 12-5 win over Texas 2. The game was tied 3-3 at the half, but Nichelle Desbordes scored two of her team-high three goals in the second half to lead Nation United 2. Five different players scored goals for Texas 2.

The USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament tradition will continue over Memorial Day Weekend 2023. Coupled at a location near the NCAA women’s lacrosse championship, next year’s event will be held in North Carolina. Dating to 1933, the event happens thanks the dedication of scores of volunteers who work with the young athletes.

“Honestly, the love of the game and growth of the game,” said Spatola as to the reason she and her co-coach Kirstin Orabone were involved. “The game has grown immensely and I think it’s in part to many tournaments that put kids in the spotlight and help support growth.”

Championship Games

Blue Division: Nation United 1 def. Philly 4, 14-8
Green Division: Virginia def. Philly 3, 14-13
Indigo Division: South Carolina def. Ohio. 12-4
Orange Division: Long Island Metro 2 def. Philly 2, 7-5
Red Division: Massachusetts/Rhode Island 1 def. Long Island Metro 1, 10-9
Violet Division: Nation United 2 def. Texas 2, 12-5
Yellow Division: Orange County def. Massachusetts/Rhode Island 3, 8-4

Complete results available on Tourney Machine.