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Jaguars Scratch Raiders: Determined Lebanon’s Season Ends With Title-Game Lacrosse Loss

  • Lebanon’s Erika Moffitt gets a shot off between Windham defender Samantha Crichton, right, and a Jaguar teammate during their NHIAA Division III state championship at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night. Moffitt scored on the shot. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Lebanon’s Erika Moffitt gets a shot off between Windham defender Samantha Crichton, right, and a Jaguar teammate during their NHIAA Division III state championship at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night. Moffitt scored on the shot. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon teammates Shauna Rankin-Byrne, left, and Emily Perryman celebrate after a goal by Perryman during their NHIAA Division III state championship game against Windham at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Lebanon teammates Shauna Rankin-Byrne, left, and Emily Perryman celebrate after a goal by Perryman during their NHIAA Division III state championship game against Windham at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Members of Lebanon girls lacrosse receive a plaque after their loss to Windham in the division III state championship. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Members of Lebanon girls lacrosse receive a plaque after their loss to Windham in the division III state championship. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon’s Erika Moffitt gets a shot off between Windham defender Samantha Crichton, right, and a Jaguar teammate during their NHIAA Division III state championship at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night. Moffitt scored on the shot. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Lebanon teammates Shauna Rankin-Byrne, left, and Emily Perryman celebrate after a goal by Perryman during their NHIAA Division III state championship game against Windham at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Members of Lebanon girls lacrosse receive a plaque after their loss to Windham in the division III state championship. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Manchester — Facing a tall order against a formidable foe last night, the Lebanon High girls lacrosse team came up short in the NHIAA Division III championship game. Surrendering three of the first four goals in each half, the Raiders fell 21-12 to Windham, which hasn’t lost a division game the past two seasons and only two of 35 contests overall during that span.

Fifth-seeded Lebanon forged a 3-3 tie after eight minutes but trailed 10-7 at halftime. Per NHIAA rules, running time was instituted once the Raiders fell behind 19-9 and 20-10. Second-seeded Windham, a fourth-year program, won its second consecutive division title, but won’t get a chance to defend it. The Jaguars (18-2) will compete in Division II next spring.

“They’re a great team but we hung with them for about 40 out of the 50 minutes,” said Lebanon coach Sara Ecker, who made her first visit to the finals of her 19-year career. “We had nine or 10 minutes where we really struggled and Windham took advantage of that.

“Their ball movement and stick work was great and those are girls who play (lacrosse) two and three seasons out of the year. They had a stretch in there where they just scored bang, bang, bang and we couldn’t stay with them and they weren’t dropping the ball.”

In contrast, three of Lebanon’s six seniors hadn’t played for the Raiders before this spring and the program dropped from Division II to Division III for the 2013 campaign because of declining participation. Ironically, however, the team had its best season ever with a small and somewhat inexperienced roster, defying those who predicted a mediocre season.

“I have to be honest, I didn’t think we’d be great, either, but these guys have worked so hard every day,” Ecker said. “Nine days out of 10, I had all 25 kids at practice. I have kids who had never picked up a stick before but they were smiling and laughing and having fun all season. That’s so rewarding.

“There was no drama or moaning and complaining. They just wanted to come back and play again the next day.”

Key to that attitude was the unexpected addition of seniors and field hockey standouts Shauna Rankin-Byrne and Taylor Friedman, who each won a 2012 state title in that sport.

Others on the lacrosse roster helped the school’s soccer and ice hockey teams shine during the fall and winter. Ecker may have only had three returning players out of her combined nine juniors and seniors, but she had athletes used to competing hard and under pressure.

“We had (playoff) experience and leadership,” Ecker said. “Lebanon (High) girls sports have had a great year.”

Senior midfielder Amelia Gage said her team was able to initially cope with Windham’s set attack but that the Jaguars took over the game once they got a chance to exhibit their speed.

“We were pretty prepared from scouting reports for what they were going to do on offense,” Gage said. “But once they started winning draw controls and getting fast breaks they pulled away. They were very good at getting their sticks open to receive a quick pass.”

Said Raiders defender Kyra Taylor: “Once they got to the 8-meter line, we had problems slowing them down and figuring out who had to guard who.”

Lebanon (13-5) received four goals each from Mo Moran and Emily Perryman, three from Erika Moffitt and one from Gage, who also had two assists. Goaltender Erin Landry had eight saves.

“We weren’t a team full of talent, but we were full of heart and hustle and that carried us far,” said Gage, adding that her team’s narrow loss to then-No.1 Kearsarge midway through the regular season provided a substantial boost. “We’re really proud of where we are because we figured we’d be kind of middle of the pack this year. But then we got going and we had some success and that made us believe we could pull together as a team.”

Said Ecker: “The worst part is that the season’s over, because I love these kids. I don’t have a practice or a game to look forward to tomorrow.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.

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