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Littleton Gets Tough On Woodsville

  • Woodsville players yell in anticipation as they watch their team try to tie the score in the game's waning minutes last night.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Woodsville players yell in anticipation as they watch their team try to tie the score in the game's waning minutes last night.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodsville's Laura Rutherford keeps an eye on the ball as she tries to keep it inbounds during yesterday's game against Littleton in Hanover.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Woodsville's Laura Rutherford keeps an eye on the ball as she tries to keep it inbounds during yesterday's game against Littleton in Hanover.

    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodsville players yell in anticipation as they watch their team try to tie the score in the game's waning minutes last night.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Woodsville's Laura Rutherford keeps an eye on the ball as she tries to keep it inbounds during yesterday's game against Littleton in Hanover.<br/><br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Hanover — Coach Ann Loud figured maybe she just needed to be a tougher cookie. It took a bit more than that to make her Woodsville High girls soccer team crumble.

Third-ranked Littleton scored twice in less than three minutes late in the first half, then held off a late charge to oust the second-ranked Engineers, 2-1, in an NHIAA Division IV semifinal last night at Merriman-Branch Field. Littleton (17-2-0), with the win last night and another on Oct. 16, was the only team to nick Woodsville (17-2-0) all season.

In the mind of Littleton coach Kory Pinard, experience made the difference. Despite having just four seniors on their roster, the Crusaders were playing in their sixth straight D-IV semifinal and used that knowledge to their advantage.

“I don’t think their confidence was up there, to be honest with you,” Littleton coach Kory Pinard said of the Engineers. “They’re a good club; they played well this whole season. But I think it’s experience. A lot of it is experience.”

The NHIAA moved the match to Hanover on Monday, anticipating that rain from Superstorm Sandy would render Merrimack Valley High School’s grass surface unplayable. With speedsters Paige Martin, Dee Martin and Louisa Noble up front guided by midfielder Sadie Matteson’s incisive through passes, Woodsville seemed a team suited to Hanover’s quick artificial surface.

Instead, the Engineers went through long spells without threatening Littleton goalkeeper Jordan Odell (five saves). Sydney Pinard and Allison Horne provided the Crusaders’ first-half strikes, while Woodsville’s Allyson O’Shana spoiled Odell’s shutout bid with a perfectly placed free kick with 4:28 left in the match.

“We get back on our heels,” Loud said. “We do tend to do that. We get going and we’re doing well, and we always have that little break in the game when we let them in.”

Much of Littleton’s strategy revolves around senior Dori Horne. Kory Pinard lists her as a defender, but he’s never afraid to insert her as striker to get the Crusaders going.

Horne scored the first goal that sent Littleton to its 2-1 win over Woodsville two weeks ago, the loss that ended the Engineers’ season-opening 14-game winning streak. Last night, Horne’s hefty right foot served a corner kick that Sydney Pinard, the coach’s daughter, nodded through traffic and past Woodsville goalkeeper Abby Simano (four saves) at 32:33 to open the scoring.

“We try to get her out front and get the momentum of the game going, get the flow of the game going, and it worked tonight,” Kory Pinard said.

Pinard immediately brought Horne back to center back after the goal, but it wasn’t a concession to the belief that one score would be enough. The Crusaders had other weapons, which freshman Allison Horne — Dori’s little sister — proved at 35:15 when she outran a Woodsville wingback to a rolling ball before calmly slotting a shot over the charging Simano for a 2-0 cushion.

“If they had scored to tie it up before we got No. 2, I would have put Dori back up front and put the other defender (junior Olivia Paradice) back in again,” coach Pinard said.

As it was, the elder Horne paired with goalie Odell and defenders Brittany Favreau, Chloe Pilgrim and Megan Bircher to flummox Woodsville. The Engineers threatened early in the second half, with Noble linking with one or the other Martin sister on three occasions, but none resulted in a shot on goal.

Woodsville rallied when Matteson found room and comfort in the middle of the Hanover turf. A Matteson feed set up Paige Martin for a 40-yard attempt at goal late, with Martin drawing a foul after her initial shot was blocked.

That set up defender O’Shana, whose 30-yard free kick floated over Odell’s outstretched fingers and under the crossbar at 75:32 to give the Engineers fleeting hope. It was the junior’s first goal of the season.

“Allyson has an amazing kick,” Loud said. “She practices all year long, and she’s always a little bit wide or a little bit over. She very rarely gets it to the net, but we keep pushing her: ‘You can do it, you can do it.’ I just didn’t give up on her.

“At one time, she didn’t want me to let her take them anymore, but I told her she could do this. She proved that she could.”

Such stick-to-it-tiveness may serve the Engineers better next year. Graduation will take Simano, Matteson, midfielder Tiarra Beatrice and backs Nara Burgess and Katherine Bazzell, among others, Woodsville’s high-scoring forwards all return.

Then, perhaps, experience can be added to the Engineers’ recipe for success.

“I’m probably not a tough enough coach,” the affable Loud said. “I think I need to beat it into them that they need to be going full steam the whole game and not have those little dips in their game. Because that’s where we lose it.”

∎ 

Corner Kicks: Littleton, which has lost two of the last three Division IV title games, will got for its first state girls soccer championship on Saturday at Southern New Hampshire University against No. 4 Newmarket, which upset top-seeded Sunapee in penalty kicks in the other semifinal last night. … The Crusaders owned a 13-11 edge in shot attempts, a 4-1 advantage in corners and a 13-9 edge in fouls. … With no air horn to signal substitutes, Pinard frequently took it upon himself to get the referee’s attention to get both teams’ reserves into the match. … Hanover boys soccer coach and jack-of-all-trades announcer Rob Grabill took a ball to the noggin shortly before halftime while between the benches confirming a score. His quick rejoinder — “That was perfect form!” — left Woodsville’s Bazzell on the verge of laughter as she attempted the ensuing throw-in. … Most of the Engineers who tied their hair back with ribbons last night did so with a strip of cloth bearing a soccer-ball pattern. … Woodsville also loses Natasha Baker, Jordyn Tierney and Schadi Keramrerari to graduation.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.