Practice Pays Off for Lakers
Meg Clarenbach, left, and Rose Webb, right, of Sunapee, celebrate after their NHIAA division IV final win over Woodsville in Hookesett, N.H., on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Samantha Thurston of Woodsville takes a moment to herself before a round of penalty kicks to decide the Engineers NHIAA division IV final with Sunapee in Hookesett, N.H. Saturday, November 9, 2013. Sunapee won on penalty kicks after two overtimes.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Samantha Thurston of Woodsville sends Abigail Armstrong of Sunapee tumbling as she leaps to get a touch on the ball during their NHIAA division IV final in Hookesett, N.H. Saturday, November 9, 2013. Sunapee won on penalty kicks after two overtimes.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Manchester — The benefit of a season spent practicing penalty kicks isn’t limited to the shooters, as Sunapee High goalkeeper Erika Waterman displayed at Southern New Hampshire University on Saturday.
Waterman swatted aside three of four Woodsville bids in a PK tiebreaker, and the third-seeded Lakers completed two perfect spot kick performances with three conversions to take the NHIAA Division II girls soccer title in a 1-0 defeat of No. 1 Woodsville at Larkin Field. Sunapee (17-2-1) won the shootout 3-1 following 100 minutes of scoreless soccer to win its second state crown in four years.
Abby Armstrong, Sydney Clark and Taylor Usko converted for the Lakers, who went 4-for-4 on PKs in beating Derryfield in Wednesday’s semifinals. Samantha Thurston netted the sole spot kick for the Engineers (18-1-1).
“I’m not sure how I feel about penalty kicks as a way of deciding a championship, but one thing I did know was we were prepared,” Sunapee coach Myles Cooney said. “When that last whistle went off, no one was gladder than I was. Now we have a shot.”
Woodsville’s state championship bid ended not because of absent skill or effort, and certainly not — in one player’s case — because of a lack of heart. Blame fate.
The NHIAA tiebreaker, which both schools survived on Wednesday to make Saturday’s final, calls for five kicks for each team 12 yards from goal, with the side making the most earning the victory. In besting Derryfield in the semis and Woodsville in the final, Sunapee shot a perfect 7-for-7.
“My girls played an outstanding game,” Woodsville coach Ann Loud said. “I think if my girls had fewer injuries, we might definitely be in a different spot right now. …
“PKs, I hate it. I didn’t even love the win we had the other day. I love to win, but to win on PKs isn’t the same thing as a regular game. Like I told the kids, it’s a crapshoot.”
Cooney went with the same order of shooters against the Engineers as he did in the semifinals. Waterman didn’t need to make a save on Wednesday — Derryfield scored once and missed the net twice — but the senior put her hands all over Woodsville’s bids.
Shooting first, Woodsville’s Julia Bowman tried to beat Waterman to her left, the goalie making a diving save. Armstrong converted past the Engineers’ Tori Clough.
Waterman next got both hands on Kayleigh Clough’s high attempt, and Clark tallied for a 2-0 advantage. Thurston drew one back for the Engineers, only to see Usko score for the Lakers.
Waterman added a third save, swatting away a Cassidy Townsend kick. After a brief bit of confusion, referee Steve Rosetti whistled the end of the match, sending Sunapee into delirium.
“I’m so happy we have Erika in net,” said Armstrong, a senior. “Erika is the best goalkeeper Sunapee has seen. We’ve been practicing and she’s stopped almost all of our PKs. I’m proud of her and I’m glad she was in the back.”
Waterman had to be in the second of the two 10-minute overtimes that preceded kicks. Without her, Woodsville would have taken the championship plaque home.
It began with a Paige Martin header on an Ally O’Shana free kick in the 92nd minute, a looping attempt that caught the top of the crossbar above Waterman. Two minutes later, Thurston sent a diagonal ball toward striker Louisa Noble that the senior couldn’t track down before Waterman intervened.
That Noble played at all was miraculous. The Upper Valley’s top scorer this season, Noble dislocated her right kneecap in a collision with a Newmarket defender five minutes into Wednesday’s victory and spent the rest of that night on the sideline. She greeted Saturday’s final with a knee brace, but clearly had difficulty cutting and stopping.
She still played 15 minutes of overtime, and her presence gave Woodsville an OT boost.
“She’s not used to that big, bulky brace, and it was hard for her moving,” Loud said. “It was tough for her on turns and stuff that she normally does, because she’s normally a really good ballhandler.
“She was over there and wanted to play, but she wasn’t bugging me. It was, ‘Let me know you’re ready and I’ll keep it in mind.’ Every time I turned to see her, she was giving me the eye.”
Even hobbled, Woodsville remained dangerous.
After Laker defender Courtney Dunnells took down Woodsville’s Dee Martin just outside the penalty area halfway through double overtime, O’Shana caromed the ensuing free kick off the crossbar and into Waterman’s hands. Sunapee back Faith Larpenter booted a Kayleigh Clough header away for a corner, and another last-minute Clough header went right to Waterman.
“At the end, we didn’t have the stamina to keep building the attack up,” Cooney said. “We were trying to keep the ball on the ground today, and when we did we had success. As soon as they put the ball in the air, we struggled. I think we ran out of stamina to connect passes.”
The on-field trainer deserved the game’s most valuable player award. In addition to the gimpy Noble, three Engineers and at least one Laker needed medical attention as the match wore on.
Noble entered the match in the 11th minute and limped off seven minutes later after contact with Dunnells. Tori Clough required a break — with defender Laura Rutherford filling in the net — after colliding with charging Sunapee striker Meg Clarenbach in the 26th minute.
Sunapee temporarily lost Sam Rossignol to an apparent ankle injury just before halftime. Woodsville back Brooke Spencer sustained a leg injury as well and had to leave the field on at least two occasions in the second half.
As would befit a veritable war of attrition, the decision came down to the soccer equivalent of a duel. When it mattered, Waterman had no equal at 12 paces.
“It’s so great,” Waterman said. “After last year, going out (on penalties) in the semifinals, we knew we had to be ready for that this year. It was great.”
Free Kicks: Usko drew the game’s sole yellow card at 68:15 for cartwheeling Tori Clough (four saves) in pursuit of a through pass. … Waterman finished with three saves for Sunapee. Rutherford didn’t see a shot during her two-plus minutes of emergency fill-in duty when Clough left for her injury. … The match was preceded by the unified soccer final between Dover and Spaulding. Soccer is the oldest of four programs run by the NHIAA that puts able-bodied athletes on the field with disabled peers. Spaulding recorded a 2-0 victory. … The SNHU game operations staff in the press box included 2010 Woodsville High graduate Kevin Wood. … Noble finished the year with a region-best 40 points, including 23 goals. Paige Martin led the valley with 27 goals, and younger sister Dee ranked fourth in scoring with 27 points. … Loud graduates Noble, Spencer, Townsend, Bowman, O’Shana, Mona Strauss, Meghan Levreault and Erica Belyea.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.