Sundstrom and Lanahan Add Youth to Veteran Girls Lacrosse Team


Two attackers look to cut in the offensive zone. (Photo/ Mary Barry)

Michele Lucas

Two attacker look to cut in the offensive zone. (Photo/ Mary Barry)
Two attackers look to cut in the offensive zone. (Photo/ Mary Barry)

When someone thinks of the lineup of a varsity athletic team, one usually thinks of junior and senior players with the occasional sophomore riding the bench. Sometimes there is an exceptional sophomore or freshman starting — such as a Summer King in Basketball or Kaitlin Brown in Soccer or Hannah Phelan in Gymnastics — but usually there is only one.  With the Walpole Girls Lacrosse Team, which has six or seven senior starters, there are two sophomore starters  — Sophomores Molly Lanahan and Meagan Sundstrom — who have become integral members to the Rebels’ offensive success.

Lanahan was called up as a freshman last year for tournament team along with Maddie Torgerson –who left to go Walpole High School to go to school at St. Marks. So far this season, Lanahan has started every game and has played exceptionally well. She has recorded 15 goals and 6 assists during  17 games.

Lanahan said, “Practicing with varsity last year helped me get prepared for this year…it helped me learn how I needed to play in order to play at the varsity level this year.”

Lanahan’s most outstanding performance was against Mansfield when the Rebels were 6 goals behind and she came up with three quick goals to help get the Rebels back into the game. However, the girls still lost 12-7 because Lanahan’s three goals were matched with three Mansfield goals.

Even though the girls did not win but Lanahan helped the team move forward from the loss and continues to make great plays and score goals in key games like those against Newton North, Medfield,  and Framingham. Against Newton North on March 9, the Rebels knew they were in for a fight. Shannon Fitzgerald, a Newton North midfielder, is an exceptionally skilled player who could cause devastation against the Rebels. After shutting her down by assinging one person to mark her the whole game (senior Nina Tobin), the Rebels focused on their offense aided by Lanahan. Lanahan scored two goals that game and helped the Rebels to their first win of the season.

To qualify for tournament the Rebels needed only one more win and were facing a talented opponent: Farmingham. Framingham is a previous Division I State Champion team in 2006 and 2007 and the Walpole Girls Lacrosse Program has never once won against them. However, everything changed on May 9 as the Rebels came out with a huge win: 15-13. Lanahan, who scored a goal, played a key role in the win. She helped the Rebels qualify for tournament with this win.

Head Coach Mike Tosone said, “Molly is fast, aggressive, smart, and extremely competitive!  Going into the season, we felt she would be a contributor, despite only being a sophomore. Molly has been everything we hoped for and more.”

Sundstrom, on the other hand, was relatively unknown until senior Jen McDonald partially tore her MCL in the third game of the season against Newton North, putting McDonald out of play for two and half weeks. During the Newton North game, Coach Tosone put Sundstrom in to finish the game for McDonald, and it was clear his decision paid off.

Sundstrom ended her first time playing in a varsity game with a goal; from then on, she did nothing but improve.  Despite the pressure of coming fresh off the bench, Sundstrom adjusted well to a varsity level game. In her first starting game against Wellesley, Sundstrom scored two goals proving she deserved and was capable in playing a whole game.

Sundstrom scored 14 goals and has 6 assists. She also has an excellent sense around the net — seeing her teammate’s cuts, feeding them the ball at just the right moment, and cutting through the eight meter arc herself.

Coach Tosone said, “Meagan has been a big (pleasant) surprise.  I knew she was a good player, but I did not know if she was quite ready to help at the Varsity level this year. Fortunately, she has proved that she is in fact ready. Meagan is very competitive, smart and coachable.”

Although she was not on the tournament team last year, Sundstrom developed into a varsity regular.  Even when McDonald returned on April 27 to play King Philip , Sundstrom still was often on the field. Then, when junior Bri Doherty re-injured herself from her basketball season against King Philip and Needham, Sundstrom went right back to a starting offensive positions.

Whether filling in for McDonald or Doherty, Sundstrom appears to have earned a place in the lineup with upperclassmen.  Lanahan said, “Meg and I work well together and are always assisting each other. Meagan contributes a lot of talent because she’s so fast and smart and she has great stick stills. She always finds the open player and makes great plays.”

A Walpole player looks to transition into offense after picking up a ground ball.(Photo/ Mary Barry)
A Walpole player looks to transition into offense after picking up a ground ball.(Photo/ Mary Barry)

Sundstrom’s and Lanahan’s speed also allows them to enter the defensive zone as a midfielder when they are closest to the ball during transition down the field.

The sophomores both play attack; however, both of the girls are allowed to enter the defensive end over the restraining line if they are closer to the ball than a midfielder who could be down the other end of the field. The strategey of the first seven into the defensive zone has worked out well for the Rebels in transition defense. The attack is also responsible for recieving the ball from the defensive end on a turn over and pressure the net.

In this case, a midfielder or two will stay in the offensive zone to prevent an offside call. The switch between midfield and attack for the whole team has been incredibly important especially against defending Division II State Champions, Medfield, on Thursday May 2. The Rebels lost 8-7; however, the game was neck and neck the whole time. Transition was a key role in this game as doubling the ball forced Medfield to turn the ball over to the Rebels. This allows for even more offensive possesions which —if the Rebels take care of the ball— means more goals.

In one instance, Sundstrom and Lanahan forced a Medfield midfielder out of bounds by having both of them mark the medfield attacker no other choice but to step out of bounds. The extra effort from both Lanahan and Sundstrom gave the Rebels a chance for yet another offensive set.

Best of all, according the Coach Tosone, “Neither one of them are intimidated about playing with, or against, older players. This is not a quality in all young players.”

As the season wraps up the Rebels currently have a 13-5 record. The girls’ record suggests they will be making a deep run into the playoffs. Walpole will be relying on the speed and skill of these two sophomores to come up big with more goals and assists as the post season approaches.