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Sunapee Boys Fall to Derryfield in D-IV Finals, 1-0

Exeter, n.h. — The look on Sunapee High boys soccer coach Jack Iacopino’s face said it all. But just in case, he added a few words: “That’s life in the big city.”

Iacopino’s Lakers battled gamely throughout Sunday afternoon’s NHIAA Division IV boys soccer championship game at Bill Ball Stadium, but ultimately Derryfield’s size, strength and athleticism held up in a 1-0 victory.

No. 3 Derryfield finishes up at 16-2-1, while No. 5 Sunapee closes at 12-5-2. Sunday’s match ended a five-game winning streak for the Lakers, which included a road win at highly ranked Division III Stevens. Sunapee has advanced to the Division IV championship game in two of the past three seasons.

A goal in the game’s first six minutes proved to be the winner. Derryfield center midfielder Jared Shoneberger chested down a Sunapee clearance 40 yards from goal, striker Jack St. Jean angled a run toward the top of the Laker penalty area and Shoneberger’s well-weighted pass found his senior classmate in stride.

St. Jean’s deft cutback dribble created the separation he needed behind the Sunapee defense, and his curled right-footed shot into upper right corner from 12 yards out left Laker keeper James Fitzgerald with no chance.

“They outplayed us by droves in the first half,” Iacopino said. “They just got to every ball first. They have some big, strong guys, and they were running by us, and sometimes through us.”

Still, fueled by Fitzgerald’s heroics (six of his seven saves came in the first half), as well as an off-the-line clearance by right back Rob Strachan to rob Derryfield’s Austin Hammer from netting the game’s second goal in the 12th minute, Sunapee stayed very much in the game throughout.

The Lakers earned three first-half corner kicks, and while the first two were emphatically headed away by imposing Cougar center back Tyler Zorn, the third very nearly tied the game. Sunapee junior midfielder Liam Sherwin took the kick with 9:20 to play in the first half. Unlike the first two corner offerings, which were high balls played to the center of the goal, Sherwin ripped into a low in-swinger toward the near post.

The ball skimmed past Derryfield keeper Tommy Cissel (two saves), all the way through the six-yard box, and onto the extended right foot of Sunapee freshman midfielder Will Austin at the back post. Austin’s deflection barely missed tying the game.

“Liam thought of playing that ball by himself,” Iacopino said. “He hits great service either way, but that was all him. (Austin) timed it well and got onto it, but just couldn’t quite redirect it inside the post.”

The Sunapee back line of Brandon Fleming, Nick St. Laurent, Nick Skarin and Strachan was airtight in the second half, and in fact the Cougars did not have a single shot on frame until Fitzgerald robbed Hammer from 10 yards out with less than 30 seconds to play. But the Derryfield defense was equally stout, particularly in the run of play.

“They were more defensive in the second half, and that gave us more of the field to play with, but we couldn’t find that final pass,” Iacopino said.

Even so, a handful of Derryfield fouls in the games final 10 minutes provided Sunapee with solid opportunities. Cougar keeper Cissel was forced to punch away driven restart offerings from Fleming and Alex Gioldassis from deep in his box, but the Lakers were unable to ever truly threaten. Sherwin’s off-balance, left-footed one-timer at the back post with 3:45 was Sunapee’s final half chance of the day.

Sunapee graduates five seniors from this year’s team — Fitzgerald, Fleming, Gioldassis, Skarin and Matt Emmond — and while Iacopino said he has not given a moment’s thought to the specifics of the 2014 campaign, the look on his face after discussing Sunday’s game made one thing very clear. And just in case, his words did too.

“I want to be here every year,” the coach said.

Back in the big city.