Kearsarge Rules Lebanon in Playoff Rematch
Kearsarge's Kate Scheuch, right, carries the ball upfield against the defense of Lebanon's Izzy Walker in a game in Lebanon, N.H., on May 16, 2014. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Kearsarge goalie Anya Nowicki deflects a shot by Lebanon's Elle Brine in the first half of the game in Lebanon, N.H., on May 16, 2014. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — In a battle of reloading girls lacrosse programs, Kearsarge High proved to have a bit more weaponry Friday, handing rival Lebanon a 13-6 loss during a rematch of a 2013 NHIAA Division III semifinal.
Anna Stowell had four goals and an assist and Libby Brooks had four goals and three assists for the Cougars, who improved to 8-2 after leading by two goals at halftime. The teams played three times last year, Kearsarge winning the first two meetings by a combined three goals before Lebanon claimed the playoff clash in double overtime.
“Last year was the first year we played Lebanon in several years and it became close and intense, just like today,” said Kearsarge coach Scott Slogic, whose team hosts the Raiders in a rematch Thursday at 6 p.m. Lebanon coach Sara Ecker “is going to show her players exactly what we did today and make adjustments,” Slogic said.
In her 20th year, Ecker long ago cemented her status as one of the state’s top coaches and consistently churns out some of its best defensive units. Last year’s team lost to Windham in the state title game and graduated several standouts, leaving the current squad with just 16 players. It currently has only a handful of healthy substitutes.
The Raiders wear down when asked to play in their own end as often as they did Friday. Fatigue contributes to mishandling the ball and allows opponents quality shots at talented goaltender Erin Landry, who made seven saves against the Cougars, several of them outstanding.
“I don’t have the depth to get fresh legs out there; it’s not an option,” said Ecker, whose 8-3 team recently lost to John Stark by three goals during a contest in which the Raiders committed 24 turnovers. “Just a couple more bodies would have made a big difference this season, but the girls we have work their tails off. We just need to get better on some little, fundamental things.”
Lebanon had eight turnovers during Friday’s first half, but 12 after intermission. The Raiders also struggled a bit on draw controls and didn’t maintain possession very long. Emily Perryman scored five goals, but three of them came so quickly after draw controls that they didn’t give her defense much time to rest. At other points, the hosts turned the ball over or shot too quickly after coming up with the ball.
“If we could clean up our turnovers, we’d be able to make a game of it,” Ecker said. “Our team’s really aware of it, and that’s something we’ve been working on. We’ve got great athletes and they’re really positive, but there will be a check and the ball hits the ground and we don’t come up with it. That just killed us in the second half.”
Lebanon kept the game scoreless for its first 10 minutes, but Kearsarge struck for the opening three goals during a three-minute span. The Raiders answered when Perryman quick-sticked home a Sam Roberts pass and the sides then traded single goals before halftime, Kearsarge leading, 5-3.
The Cougars earned some breathing room by scoring the second half’s first two goals in two minutes, taking five of the first six shots and winning four of the first five draw controls. Slogic, unhappy with his team’s attack during the opening 25 minutes, hammered home the need to fix that problem during intermission.
“We talked about specific plays and off-ball motion to free up our attackers,” the coach said. “Lebanon plays a very stiff defense and our kids struggled against it in the first half. Once they saw some of the openings, however, they built a little momentum with their close-in passing.
“In the start of the second half, our attack was in great form and looked very pretty.”
Slogic was also pleased with his team’s midfield defense, which had its troubles containing the fast and powerful Perryman, but mostly prevailed when No. 4 didn’t have the ball. Emma Forman and Erika Moffitt also had strong games for the hosts.
“Lebanon really struggled to get the ball in our end of the field and had very few opportunities for attack,” Slogic said. “Of course, when they had them, they really challenged us, (Perryman) in particular, but our defense stood up to her.”
Kearsarge has reached the division semifinals four times in the last five years and the finals three times during that span. The graduation of standouts such as midfielder Gemma Bready and goaltender Morgan Galluzzo, now playing in college, raised questions about whether the Cougars could sustain their accustomed level of performance, but Friday showed the program remains loaded with talent.
“Our team has had a couple of Jekyll-and-Hyde moments,” said Slogic, whose squad lost to John Stark and Laconia. “When we lost to Laconia, we couldn’t have beaten the New London U15 team. We just got off the bus and weren’t ready to play. We’re young but we’re playing better as we play more and the girls see the potential within themselves.”
Eleanor Angus, Jonalyn Burt, Lianna Blakeman, Geneva Heffernan and Haley Brook also tallied for Kearsarge, which received two assists from Heffernan and single helpers from Angus and Burt. Moffitt had a goal and Forman an assist for Lebanon.
Notes: A bake sale and donations at the game raised $450 for the Lebanon team’s Not In Our House fund to aid victims of domestic violence. The event is held annually in memory of former Lebanon High teacher Natalie Perriello, who was murdered by her husband in 2012. … Colby College in Maine was 10-6 this season with Bready starting two of the 11 games in which she played and scoring twice. … Keene State freshman Mo Moran, a former Lebanon player, appeared in eight games for the Owls (13-5) this spring, contributing three goals and three assists.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.