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Undefeated Cougars Hold Off Pesky Raiders

  • Lebanon High’s Shauna Rankin-Byrne, left, races upfield yesterday as Kearsarge’s Christy Ross shouts for defensive help. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Lebanon High’s Shauna Rankin-Byrne, left, races upfield yesterday as Kearsarge’s Christy Ross shouts for defensive help. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

  • Kearsarge High goaltender Morgan Galluzzo stops a Lebanon shot yesterday in front of teammate Christy Ross. The Cougars beat the Raiders, 12-10, in an NHIAA Division III game in North Sutton. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Kearsarge High goaltender Morgan Galluzzo stops a Lebanon shot yesterday in front of teammate Christy Ross. The Cougars beat the Raiders, 12-10, in an NHIAA Division III game in North Sutton. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

  • Lebanon High’s Shauna Rankin-Byrne, left, races upfield yesterday as Kearsarge’s Christy Ross shouts for defensive help. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Kearsarge High goaltender Morgan Galluzzo stops a Lebanon shot yesterday in front of teammate Christy Ross. The Cougars beat the Raiders, 12-10, in an NHIAA Division III game in North Sutton. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

North Sutton, n.h. — Swarming black flies and creeping ticks at yesterday’s NHIAA Division III girls lacrosse game at Kearsarge High bugged spectators and participants alike. But the real pests were the visiting Lebanon Raiders, who refused to be shaken off during a 12-10 loss to the undefeated Cougars.

Shauna Rankin-Byrne and Mo Moran scored 21 seconds apart to pull Lebanon within 11-9 with 12 minutes remaining. The Raiders were down 12-10 with three minutes to go and got a point-blank shot from Emily Perryman, but Kearsarge goaltender Morgan Galluzzo absorbed the ball with her chest protector. The Cougars’ backstop also denied Moran soon after on a free-position shot, getting a piece of the rubber before it rolled off the right post.

“We went up 6-1 pretty quickly and started feeling this wasn’t going to be as hard as we had thought,” said fifth-year Kearsarge coach Scott Slogic, whose team improved to 10-0 while dropping Lebanon to 7-3. “This is a young team that got a lead and wasn’t quite mature enough to hold it and add to it.”

Said Lebanon coach Sara Ecker: “We let down and gave up five goals in three minutes of the first half and dug ourselves a hole. Against a good team like Kearsarge, you usually can’t get out of that hole, but if the game had gone on for a few more minutes, who knows what would have happened?”

Perryman said she and her teammates walked off the field upbeat despite the loss. A squad that began the year with only three experienced seniors and no returning juniors has made impressive strides in only a few weeks.

“None of us had a frown on our face because we played our best game of the season and we’ll get them next time,” said Perryman, whose team hosts Kearsarge in a rematch on Thursday. “Our fundamentals are definitely better than they were at the start of the season. We’re passing and catching well and on defense, we’re communicating and seeing (the ball carrier).”

The Cougars have reached the division title game three times in the last four years, but it appeared a similar run might be a long shot when the current campaign began. Kearsarge graduated 10 seniors, including seven starters, from its 2012 roster, and Slogic regularly plays four freshmen and two sophomores. The hosts also competed yesterday without starting attacker Haley Brook, who was attending her sister’s college graduation.

“It was a little frustrating because while Lebanon played good midfield defense, we also had trouble transitioning from defense to offense in the second half,” Slogic said. “Lebanon started throwing beautiful, (long) passes in front of our goalie and we had trouble with those.”

Amelia Gage, Perryman and Rankin-Byrne were the primary deliverers of those feeds, the latter chucking one such toss 30 yards on a rope to Moran, who finished with a game-high six goals. Perryman had two goals and two assists, Gage had a goal and four assists and Rankin-Byrne also tallied.

Kearsarge received three goals and two assists from Geneva Heffernan, three goals from Libby Brooks, two goals from Bready and singles strikes from Caitlin Anderson, Lianna Blakeman, Anna Stowell and Jonalyn Burt, the latter adding two assists.

A 1-1 tie after 10 minutes turned into a 6-1 lead for Kearsarge before the Raiders cut their deficit to 6-3 at halftime. Lebanon gained traction from defensive stops under the direction of Ecker, a onetime Hanover High standout who played defense for Lehigh University and excels at teaching that portion of the game. Lebanon worked hard to stay in good position while committing only a handful of fouls and forcing goaltender Erin Landry to face few free-position shots.

“Sara is so good at setting up examples for us in practice and getting in there and walking us all through what has to happen,” Perryman said. “That visual style works so well for us.”

Gage and Perryman scored within 14 seconds to make the score 6-5 just two minutes into the second half. The Cougars took leads of 8-5, 9-6 and 11-8 but could never quite pull comfortably away.

“We were just really fired up for this game,” said Ecker, whose program lost in the first round of the Division II playoffs last year before dropping down a level because of dwindling participation. “We’d been flat the past week and we talked in practice about how Kearsarge was a strong team and we needed to come out at the top of our game.

“In 19 years of coaching, this is the most receptive group I’ve ever had in terms of teaching them. They want to be better lacrosse players and a better team and when I give them something to fix, they fix it.”

Notes: Galluzzo took a hard shot off her facemask during the second half and Slogic said she was left “woozy,” but was not concussed. … The flies were so bad by the second half that a Raiders reserve stood up with a can of bug spray and held the trigger down for several seconds while walking behind her seated teammates on the bench. Ecker eventually draped a hooded sweater over her head and pulled it around her like a cloak, leaving only her face exposed to the insects. … The teams’ rematch next week will also serve as a fundraiser for domestic violence prevention. The event is in memory of former Lebanon High teacher Natalie Perriello, slain last spring, allegedly by her husband.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.