NASHUA — Nothing was going to stop Melanie Hutchinson on Tuesday afternoon.
The junior midfielder on the Merrimack High School girls’ lacrosse team tweaked her knee with 10:57 left in the first half but refused to allow the injury or Nashua North’s defense to stand in her way at Stellos Stadium, as she exploded for five goals during a 10-6 triumph over the hard-working Titans.
Hutchinson netted a hat trick in a span of 3:40 in the second half, as her free-position goal with 17:54 left stood as the game-winning marker. She gave the visitors some breathing room at 9-6 with 14:14 on the clock, scoring off an impressive dodge on the left side.
“Melanie is just an all-around player and she brings the momentum,” Tomahawks coach Sarah Rothhaus said. “She gets the whole team ready to go. We came out a little flat today. We have four starters that are injured, so we had a lot of youth playing today, but we ended strong, which is good.”
Senior goalie Bella Beaton was phenomenal for Merrimack (2-1), finishing with 14 saves, many of which came on point-blank shots. Junior attack Ellie Boucher and junior midfielder Megan Dinsmore each contributed with a goal and an assist in the victory, while senior defender Erin Ortega tallied two goals. The Tomahawks ended the game with five straight goals after falling behind, 6-5, with 20:17 left in the second half.
The Titans (0-4) received hat tricks from seniors Kaylee Hubbard and Campbell Haller.
Hutchinson netted two goals 1:09 apart, as she gave the hosts a 2-0 edge on a free-position attempt five minutes into the game. With 16:34 left in opening half, Boucher finished a wrap-around goal on the left attacking side, and then 1:15 later, Boucher found Dinsmore on a strong cut down the lane, pushing the lead up to 4-1.
North finished the half strong, scoring four of the final five goals. The Titans posted a man-down tally with 7:20 left, with Haller finding the back of the cage off a feed from Hubbard, cutting the deficit down to 5-4. With 1:37 on the scoreboard, Haller rifled a shot pass the goal line, evening the score at 5-5 heading into halftime.
“The first half was a really good competitive half,” said Titans co-coach Heather McKillop, who is coaching the team along with Kristen Peterson. “Our team came out really strong. Merrimack did some nice things and had enough gas left at the end to capitalize on some of our mistakes. Both teams fought really hard.”
A goal by Haller 4:43 into the second half gave North the lead for the only time at 6-5. Dinsmore made a highlight-reel pass to a cutting Paige Rivet, and the freshman midfielder ripped a shot into the net from straight on, tying the game at 6-6 with 19:15 on the board.
Hutchinson reeled off her three straight goals, and then with 57 seconds left, Ortega posted a coast-to-coast marker, extending Merrimack’s cushion to 10-6.
Beaton and Titans sophomore goalie Samantha Canto were phenomenal in net. Canto robbed Rivet from point-blank range twice in the second half at the 11:24- and 15-minute marks. Beaton stood tall down the stretch with Merrimack holding a 9-6 lead, which was crucial because North sustained a solid attack. Beaton denied sophomore Lillian Brooks on a wrap-around attempt on the left doorstep with 12:30 left, and then turned aside sophomore Kiley O’Brien on a free-position drive with two minutes on the clock.
“Bella is nice to have back there defensively,” Rothhaus said. “We count on her a lot to make saves. She is a smart player. We came out a lot more ready in that second half. We won the draws, made better passes and took smarter shots.”