Kearsarge Lacrosse Sweeps Lebanon
Kearsarge High girls lacrosse coach Scott Slogic greets Lebanon goaltender Erin Landry during introductions before Thursday's NHIAA Division III game in North Sutton. The host Cougars won, 11-9, and improved to 9-2 despite nine saves by Landry. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Kearsarge High's Emma Tilley (7) runs beneath an arc of her teammate's lacrosse sticks Thursday while being introduced prior to the Cougars' 11-9 defeat of visiting Lebanon in an NHIAA Division III game. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
North Sutton, n.h. — The Kearsarge Regional High girls lacrosse team has played Lebanon five times during the past two seasons and won four of those matchups, including Thursday’s 11-9 triumph in soggy and muddy conditions on its home field. Still, you can’t blame the Cougars for not wanting to face the Raiders in the upcoming NHIAA Division III playoffs.
“We have a lot of respect for that team, but the third time against them didn’t work out too well for us last year,” said Kearsarge coach Scott Slogic, whose top-ranked squad was upset by the No. 5 Raiders in a 2013 semifinal after winning the teams’ two regular-season meetings. “Our games with them are exciting and wicked intense, but no, I don’t want another one this season.”
Added co-captain Libby Brooks: “I can’t say that’s something we want to do, but if it happens, we’re certainly up for the challenge.”
Observers who relish a good, clean scrap, however, might feel differently. The teams’ rivalry has blossomed seemingly overnight, becoming one of the Upper Valley’s best in any sport, and Thursday’s game only added to its status.
Lebanon took a 6-5 lead into halftime after star Emily Perryman ripped one of her seven goals under Kearsarge netminder Anya Nowicki with less than a second remaining on the clock. The Cougars, however, pulled away by breaking an 8-8 tie with two man-up tallies during a 1:15 span.
Perryman, who scored five times during last week’s 13-6 loss to visiting Kearsarge, equaled that total just during Thursday’s first half. The Cougars responded by assigning one defender the lone responsibility of shadowing No. 4, and also worked to deny her the ball.
“In the second half we wanted to jump on her father out,” Slogic said. “If she was going to get fouled, we wanted it to happen outside the 12-meter line. We also put a spy on her so she was unable to get the ball as often. That caused Lebanon to pass the ball around and us to knock it down and get into a midfield game with them.”
Lebanon possessed the ball for 10 of the game’s first 11 minutes, pleasing coach Sara Ecker, who sought to implement a slowdown style to bolster her team’s low numbers. The Raiders used the same 12 players the entire game and have only 15 in their program, which includes no seniors and one freshman.
“We don’t have depth, but these girls fight hard and play a lot of minutes without a break,” Ecker said. “That’s hard and we had some moments of frustration and they were the difference in the game.”
The contest began to tip when its first penalty was whistled, a “dangerous follow-through” foul on Lebanon’s Sam Roberts. The junior was cited for allowing her stick to smack an opponent as she extended her arms in the aftermath of a shot. Ecker said she didn’t see the play, but that her team has been called for that foul several times this season and that it’s not exceptionally rare.
“That usually happens when you try and shoot in a crowd, because there’s probably going to be a person’s body nearby,” the coach said. “Maybe you don’t want to shoot in that situation, but it happens.”
Kearsarge needed only 16 seconds to score with the player advantage, Anna Stowell beating netminder Erin Landry. The Raiders had won all five draw controls in the second half to that point, but lost the ensuing one and surrendered another tally with Roberts on the sidelines, this one by Haley Brook on a free-position shot.
Brook’s goal came from an unusual restart formation assigned by the referees, one in which Landry was positioned behind the shooter. Moments earlier, Brook had leapt to block an attempted Landry clear from the Lebanon crease. The ball landed a few feet away and the netminder ran out and cross-checked her foe to the ground from behind, leading to the free-position opportunity.
Brook’s strike put Kearsarge up, 10-8, with nine minutes remaining. Lebanon pulled within a goal a minute later, when Perryman intercepted a Nowicki clear and flipped it into the unguarded cage. However, the Cougars closed out the scoring on a Hannah Anderson tally with four minutes to play and ran out the clock after winning the ensuring draw control.
“They play tight defense and you have to use sharp cuts and short passes to beat it,” Slogic said. “Today, the weather and the ground conditions really took us out of our primary attack. When we played them before on dry ground, we were able to get a lot of 5-yard passes into the middle, but today both teams were slipping in there.”
Each side left relatively happy. The Cougars hope to finish among the division’s top four teams, which would earn them a first-round bye in the playoffs and the right to host a second-round game. The Raiders left knowing they had made significant strides against one of the state’s best teams and will be a tough postseason out.
“For us to be able to walk off the field feeling so positive after a loss and knowing that we’re actually pretty good, that’s good for the kids,” Ecker said. “They did a really good job of moving the ball and taking care of the ball, which is something we’ve really been working on.
“For whatever reason, they were ready for this game. Maybe it was the last game (with Kearsarge) that made them work harder, but this is the team that I know they can be and the team we need to be from this point on.”
Lebanon (9-4) received two goals from Roberts and nine saves from Landry. Kearsarge got three goals from Eleanor Angus, two each from Lianna Blakeman and Stowell and one apiece by Geneva Heffernan, Brooks, Brook and Hannah Anderson. Nowicki, a freshman, made three saves, none in the second half, although the Raiders hit the post three times after intermission.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.