It has been a memorable season for the #1 seed in this year’s MIAA Girls Division 1 tournament. Austin Prep has been about as dominant as a team could be, going 23-0-0 as they ready for Sunday’s D1 state title game (1:00pm, TD Garden). The Cougars have oustscored their opponents by a whopping 116-12 margin.
But, in third-seeded Methuen/Tewksbury (21-1-1), Austin Prep will need to overcome its biggest obstacle if the Cougars hope to win their first state title since 2016.
The Red Rangers have been almost as dominant this winter. They have scored 119 goals and allowed just 28. They are one of a few teams in the state that can match Austin Prep talent for talent at all three positions.
Coach Sarah Oteri’s club, which reached the state final last winter falling to Woburn 1-0, has been playing at the top of its game over the last few weeks, and that could bode well in this one.
Methuen/Tewksbury possesses the state’s top scorer in senior Julia Masotta, who has piled up 49 goals and 30 assists. Fellow senior Cassidy Gruning, who had four goals in M/T’s 9-1 semifinal win over Longmeadow, checks in with a 28-20-48 line. Other offensive leaders have been junior Lydia Pendleton (30 pts), the third member of the big line, and senior veteran Carolyn Curley (24 pts).
One of the key side stories of this game will be this explosive group going up against the rock-solid blue line corps of the Cougars.
“Austin Prep has very talented forwards and a solid goalie but the key to their success are their defensemen,” said St. Mary’s coach Frank Pagliuca, whose team played the Cougars twice this season. The group is skilled and physical, limit opponents to one shot and done, break the puck out of the zone in such an efficent manner, great in transition and a lot of Austin’s scoring opportunities run through their defensemen in the offensive zone.”
Juniors Frankie Frelick (19 pts) and Eryn Taber (who scored 37 pts as an eighth-grader playing for the Red Rangers in the 2015-16 season) and freshman Maeve Carey (17 pts) lead that blue line group for coach Stephanie Wood.
Austin also has a veteran presence between the pipes in senior Hannah Aveni, who broke the school record for shutouts this winter.
The Red Rangers also have a solid defense that will need to slow down the Cougars offense. Senior Megan Forbes (12 pts) and juniors Brenna Greene (20 pts) and Madi Sjostedt (15 pts) are an experienced and veteran trio that lead the back line.
Like the Cougars, M/T also has a veteran presence in their net in the likes of junior Kaia Hollingsworth, a starter for the Red Rangers since the seventh grade.
“It will be an interesting game,” Pagliuca said. “Methuen/Tewksbury has been on fire throughout the tournament. “Two main questions? Can Methuen/Tewksbury survive the Austin Prep surges throughout the game and limit offensive zone time for them? How would Austin Prep handle playing from behind in game? They have not played many games when they have been trailing after the first or second periods/”
It should be a great one.