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Engineers Get Last Kicks, Reach D-IV Title Game

Woodsville High girls soccer goalkeeper Tori Clough, right, receives an embrace from teammate Laura Rutherford after the Engineers' NHIAA Division IV semifinal win over Newmarket at Laconia High School on Wednesday night. Clough saved the final kick of a five-round penalty kick tiebreaker to give the Engineers the victory following a scoreless draw. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

Woodsville High girls soccer goalkeeper Tori Clough, right, receives an embrace from teammate Laura Rutherford after the Engineers' NHIAA Division IV semifinal win over Newmarket at Laconia High School on Wednesday night. Clough saved the final kick of a five-round penalty kick tiebreaker to give the Engineers the victory following a scoreless draw. Valley News -- Greg Fennell Purchase photo reprints »

Laconia, n.h. — As befitting a soccer match that more resembled a mixed martial arts fight at times, the last man … ahem, girl … standing wore a pair of gloves.

Woodsville High goalkeeper Tori Clough slapped down a Lynea Bost bid on the final attempt of a penalty-kick tiebreaker, sending the top-ranked Engineers to Saturday’s NHIAA Division IV girls soccer championship on the wings of a 1-0 semifinal defeat of No. 4 Newmarket at Laconia High School on Wednesday night. Following 100 minutes of scoreless soccer, Woodsville’s Julia Bowman, Samantha Thurston and Erica Belyea nailed their spot kicks in a 3-2 decision clinched by Clough’s save.

“They did their best, and they worked real hard; they did a nice job,” relieved Woodsville coach Ann Loud said. “With the shootout, we were just lucky. I hate shootouts.”

Woodsville’s opponent on Saturday, No. 3 Sunapee, can speak from that experience as well. The Lakers outkicked No. 2 Derryfield 4-1 on penalties in the night’s other semifinal following a 1-1 draw. Sunapee and Woodsville meet for the title at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday at Southern New Hampshire University.

The Engineers can only hope that their lethal front line will be back intact by then. A hard foul from Newmarket senior Katrina Holmes cost Woodsville its top scorer, senior Louisa Noble, just five minutes into the contest. Another member of the Engineers’ speedy strike force, junior Paige Martin, spent the night peeling herself off Jim Fitzgerald Field’s artificial surface, either the result of Holmes’ occasionally overaggressive attention or her own devil-may-care approach to her physical well-being.

Which may also speak to Loud’s PK selections. Of the five who took kicks, three were senior defenders. Two of them, Bowman and Belyea, scored.

“We’ve talked about it the last couple of weeks and everything, and I’ve been preparing them for it,” Loud said. “They were ready for us. They weren’t nervous. I was more nervous than they were.

“They were all set. It was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ ”

The night unknowingly turned against the Engineers’ preferred plan of attack — Noble, Martin and sophomore Dee Martin running defenses ragged — when Holmes tackled Noble just 4:40 into the contest. Noble was slow to get up and spent the rest of the night beside the Woodsville bench with ice on her right knee.

Loud required major minutes up front from junior Maggie Kinder, but no one else on the Woodsville bench brings the pace the Martins and Noble have employed in amassing 61 of the Engineers’ 88 goals entering the match.

“Losing Louisa was tough,” Loud said. “The three of them work so well together. We tried moving people in and out, but there’s nobody that has that speed, that keeps up with them.”

Holmes, meanwhile, spent much of the night making herself acquainted with referee Eddie Currier.

The takeout of Noble was innocent enough, two players going after a 50-50 ball. A 38th-minute hammering of Paige Martin, however, drew a speech from Currier. Senior defender Ally O’Shana tried testing Newmarket goalkeeper Maddie Teague (six saves) from distance on the ensuing free kick without much menace.

By the 52nd minute, Currier had seen enough of Holmes’ tactics. A midfielder clobbering of Woodsville’s Thurston drew a yellow card and a five-minute sit-down. Holmes toned down the pounding from there on out, although Currier had a few words for her when she banged into Paige Martin again in the 63rd minute.

Martin, meanwhile, had her own challenges just staying upright. A minute after Holmes’ card, Martin tumbled backward over a Newmarket player and banged her head on the artificial surface, staggering back down after trying to get up. She would take two more trips to the bench for rest during the second half, but each time she returned game for more contact.

“Paige plays full-out all the time, and we’ve been trying to work with her on calming down, but she just goes full tilt all the time,” Loud said. “A lot of times she’ll stay down a minute, but once she’s up she’s good to go again.”

The 80 minutes of regulation offered little in the way of scoring drama. Woodsville saved its best for last, with an O’Shana bomb from 40 yards forcing a ragged stop from Teague, who followed up with a diving save at the left post on Dee Martin’s follow.

Newmarket’s Jasmine Whitman should have ended things two minutes into overtime. Freed on the left wing by a perfect Brigette Dubois lead pass, Whitman cut back on a Woodsville defender and had Clough dead to rights from the top of the box. Aiming for the upper 90, Whitman clanked the crossbar to Clough’s left and the sophomore keeper (five saves) gratefully swallowed the ricochet.

“We really dodged a bullet,” Loud said.

Woodsville never trailed in the five-round tiebreaker. Dubois cancelled out Bowman’s opening goal. After misses each way, Thurston and Whitman traded strikes for a 2-2 tie through three rounds.

Belyea hit the decider in round four, solving Teague to the upper left corner. The Mules’ Nicole Sanborn hit the crossbar, Dee Martin fired high for Woodsville, and Clough clinched the win by getting both paws on Bost’s high bid.

“I know the girls were getting tired,” Loud said. “It was time for this to end.”

And it did. With a TKO.

Free Kicks: The official name of Laconia’s new turf facility is James Fitzgerald Field at Bank of New Hampshire stadium. The field, which opened in late September, is dedicated to the longtime coach of the Sachems’ football program. … Woodsville (18-0-1) will make just its third appearance in an NHIAA girls soccer final on Saturday. The Engineers won back-to-back crowns in Class S in 1993 and ’94. … Newmarket (14-5-0) was trying to earn its first championship game appearance. … In addition to Noble and Paige Martin, Woodsville also lost defender Kayleigh Clough to a second-half injury. Like Martin, Clough later returned to the game.

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