Coach Spatola on Recipe that Makes This Year's Winning Girls' Lacrosse Team

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Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

When Margot Spatola became head coach of Westwood High School’s Girls’ Lacrosse in 2017, she faced the daunting task of continuing the legacy of predecessor Leslie Frank, who led the Wolverines to 8 Division I state championships in eighteen seasons.

But Ms. Spatola was perhaps in the best position of anyone to take on that mantle. She had served as assistant varsity lacrosse coach for 6 years under Ms. Frank, and helped coach 3 of the seasons in which Westwood won the state final (2012, 2014, and 2016). While playing lacrosse for Boston College, Ms. Spatola was named a Northeast Regional All-American in 2006 and 2009. Besides being an elite player herself, lacrosse runs in her family – her father was a member of Boston College’s first men’s lacrosse team in 1970.

In her fifth season as head coach (the 2020 season was cancelled due to Covid-19), Ms. Spatola has ushered Westwood back into the familiar territory of state champions. On Thursday, July 1, 2021, Westwood prevailed 6-5 over Franklin in an exciting 2021 State Final.

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“It feels really great,” says Ms. Spatola of the win. She expresses gratitude for the team’s dedicated fans. “We had a lot of fans at the home games and 2 play-off away games. It’s so nice, and we really appreciate fans following us into summer when everyone’s life gets so busy.  That made it special.”

But the moments leading up to the win were stressful. “I did my best not to freak out!” she says, laughingly now, as she remembers how Franklin came back strong against Westwood’s lead in the second half.

“We weren’t connecting our attacks or finishing like we usually like to. When time was winding down, a play was called – not the play that led to the win – but we scored. I think it was adrenaline and hustle plays and the players just doing whatever they could to find the win.”

Winning team ingredients? Adrenaline, hustle, and heart. Anything else? Ms. Spatola adds focus and supportive teammates.

“With the extension into summer pushing the season later than usual, the seniors were done – they graduated – for over a month [before the playoff games]. The others were done for 2 weeks. So, staying focused when summer had begun was a testament to them. They believed in themselves. They believed in each other. Focusing in the last few weeks was important to stay strong. They did that.”

Ms. Spatola has one favorite aspect about this year’s team, however.  She admires the team members’ support of one another.

“This is a great group of kids. Their personalities worked well together. They wanted each other to do well, and that translated into helping each other on the field, assists, and when someone was having a hard time, in backing up their teammates on the field. They wanted to do well and they wanted their teammates to do well.”

That the team worked so well together is impressive given that Westwood had only 5 returning players this year. Additionally remarkable is that their cohesiveness was achieved in a shortened time of playing together. Due to the pandemic, try-outs normally held in March were delayed until April 26th, leaving only a week and a half to settle in as a team before their first game in early May. But the girls had a connection. When the newcomers joined, “It felt like they were a team longer than that,” says Ms. Spatola.

She notes that the girls played pickup games when they could. Some of them shared bonds from playing sports together in other seasons.

“Lacrosse is their number one sport, but they are all-around athletes where they play sports in other seasons. It’s great because they have no burn-out. They play lacrosse because they love it.”

“It’s really impressive what they did after a crazy one-and-a-half years of isolation and the unknown. They stepped into spring ready to go, excited to play and excited for each other. What was special this year was that they were really good teammates to each other. It made easing into normal life nicer, and capping it off with a win in the final made it great.”

The team celebrated their final win together by going to Jake n JOES with their families, still soaking wet from playing in the rain. The next day, the team and coaches gathered at a team member’s house for a brunch.

For now, the team is focused on enjoying the big win, says Ms. Spatola. But she doesn’t think the returning members of this team will rest on their laurels.

“The motivation [next year] will be to show that we belong here,” she says.

Thanks to Margot Spatola for being interviewed for this article. If you enjoyed this article, please support local journalism by subscribing to Westwood Minute's daily email newsletter.  It's free! Just click the blue "Sign Up" button below.

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