Double Your Pleasure: Raiders Take Down No. 1 Kearsarge in 2 OT’s to Reach Finals
Lebanon Head Coach Sara Ecker hugs midfielder Emily Perryman after Lebanon’s double overtime victory over Kearsarge last night in the N.H. girls lacrosse DIII semifinal round at Southern New Hampshire University. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon’s Shauna Rankin-Byrne keeps the ball away from Kearsarge’s Kaileigh Davis during Lebanon’s D-III semifinal victory. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Manchester, n.h. — Was there any doubt this one was going to be close? The Kearsarge High and Lebanon girls lacrosse teams’ first game this season was decided by two goals. The second clash was a one-goal affair. Last night’s third meeting? It was decided in overtime, of course. Double overtime.
Lebanon won the NHIAA Division III semifinal, 9-8 as Emily Perryman scored to lift the Raiders into the initial, extra session and tallied again 49 seconds into the second, sudden-death stanza. The first of those strikes came when the sophomore knocked in a Shauna Rankin-Byrne feed out of mid-air with eight seconds remaining in the second half. The second occurred after she caught an Amelia Gage pass and bounced a shot past Cougars goaltender Morgan Galluzzo for the winner at Southern New Hampshire University.
“I don’t even remember them,’’ said a slightly dazed Perryman, whose fifth-seeded team lost its first two games against No. 1 Kearsarge this spring but faces No. 2 Windham on Thursday for the division title. “The one just before overtime was a Hail Mary goal, almost a field hockey shot off the ground. The (winning goal) was sidearm, with a defender right in front of me.”
That play happened with Kearsarge’s Haley Brook off the field and her team down a player after she was given a yellow card for a foul with 13 seconds remaining in the second of two three-minute segments that comprised the first, scoreless overtime period. The rules stipulated that both parts would be played no matter the score.
The Cougars won the second overtime’s opening faceoff, but turned the ball over soon after. Lebanon maintained possession until Perryman ended the game.
That play scuttled a Kearsarge comeback that saw the Cougars rally from a 7-4 deficit midway through the second half. Libby Brooks scored her team’s last two goals on a pair of nearly identical plays, running up the alley to the right of Lebanon goaltender Erin Landry before firing low shots inside the far post. Those strikes pulled Kearsarge into a 7-7 tie with 7:40 remaining in the second half and pushed it ahead 8-7 with 4:31 to go.
“The hardest part is we came back against them,’’ said Brooks, a junior whose program had lost in the division title game three of the past four years. “We just couldn’t finish it off. We knew it was going to be close and we prepared as much as we could, but (Lebanon) really wanted to beat us and they played hard.”
Landry, a sophomore and second-year netminder who began the season in shaky fashion, was outstanding last night. She made nine saves, four of them on free-position shots, and was the difference in the game.
“I think Erin finally realized this was a position she wanted to be good at and that she was willing to put time into,’’ said Lebanon coach Sara Ecker.
“Her entire attitude has changed and she has put so much more effort into practicing than she did before. It’s made all the difference, because goalie is such a hard position. And when she makes a save, it gets us even more psyched than when we score.”
Lebanon (13-4) produced three of the night’s first four goals but led only 5-4 at halftime. The Raiders scored the first two goals after intermission, going up by three and looking like they might pull away. Ecker, however, wasn’t banking on it.
“I would never breath easy with Kearsarge because they have some super, great talent,’’ the coach said. “Those last two shots Brooks put in were unstoppable.”
Equally hard to squelch was Rankin-Byrne, an accomplished field hockey player who signed to play that sport at UMass in the fall. Fast, fearless and unfazed by the building tension, No. 5 twice circled the cage in the final minute of regulation time, looking and waiting for someone to break free in front of Galluzzo.
“Those weren’t (called) plays, just Shauna taking charge,’’ Ecker said. “She sees the field very well and she’s been in (pressure) situations before, so she knows how to find other players. The last two goals happened so quickly that I didn’t really see either one of them clearly.”
After the game, Ecker’s vision was a bit blurred by a few tears. This is the former Hanover High player’s 19th year coaching at Lebanon but Thursday will be the Raiders’ first appearance in the finals. Windham is 17-2, with its only losses coming against a Division I and a Division II foe and the Jaguars are the defending Division III champions after going 17-0 last year.
“We turned the ball over a lot more than I would have liked tonight, but even when we were down, this team played with everything it had,’’ Ecker said, moments before being swallowed up by her young son and daughter in a rowdy embrace. “This is pretty emotional for me, for all of us.”
Notes: Perryman and Gage each had three goals, Mo Moran had two and Rankin-Byrne scored once for Lebanon. Kearsarge got three goals from Brooks, two from Caitlin Anderson and one each from Haley Brook, Gemma Bready and Jonalyn Burt… Raiders freshman Elle Brine ascended to the press box to sing the national anthem… Attendance appeared to be roughly 300.
, with the initial semifinal attracting about half as many fans… Plainfield resident, longtime sports official and former Lebanon High boys soccer coach Denis Reisch was one of the first semifinal’s referees and said he will be the auxiliary official for Thursday’s final, overseeing the substitution box and penalties.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.