New Lacrosse Coach Gives Wasps Some Sting

Sunday, May 03, 2015
Woodstock — Twenty-nine goals, five ties, five lead changes, 50 minutes of regulation, six minutes of overtime — it added up to a sunny afternoon of suspense. Woodstock and Mount Anthony’s girls lacrosse nail-biter supplied just about everything, including — finally — a winner.

Woodstock junior midfielder Lauren Kaija had seen some close games, but perhaps nothing quite like this. “I remember losing a lot of games by one goal,” said Kaija, whose team fell, 15-14, in its season home opener Saturday. “This one I’m not so sad about. They’re a Division I powerhouse, and we gave them a run for their money.”

For nearly an hour, Kaija and the Division II Wasps gave the Patriots fits. Woodstock, off to a 3-1 start under first-year coach Amanda Soule, a former player at Woodstock and Saint Michael’s College, scored three quick goals to start the game and wound up tied 6-6 at halftime after a reeling Mount Anthony collected itself.

The Patriots tied it on a goal by midfielder Bridget Ahearn with 51 seconds left in the half, setting the stage for a thriller that never lost its edge. “We were getting down, and we really needed that momentum,” said Ahearn, who also scored for a 15-13 lead with just over a minute left in the first three-minute overtime period. “If I have the ball and I have that shot, I’m going to take it.”

Mount Anthony (5-1) played its way last year to the D-I semifinals, where it lost to Burr and Burton. Seeded sixth in D-II, Woodstock lost, 12-10, in the quarterfinals to No. 3 Chelsea, which fell to U-32 in the finals.

Woodstock, 16-32 over the last three seasons including last year’s 4-10 record, went into Saturday’s game at 3-0 with wins over Chelsea, Stowe and Hartford and had outscored its opponents, 40-19.

The Wasps kept the pressure on. “They’re a great team,” Ahearn said. “They work hard, and they’re fast. Our defense stayed strong, our goalie (Sam Mayer) stayed strong, and our offense started to get some goals.”

Kaija scored eight goals, four in each half of regulation, senior Clancy Farrand had four, and Abby Kaija and Hannah Milstone each had one. Goalie Megan Dalton played a lead role, coming up with some huge saves to keep it close. For Mount Anthony, Emily Altland scored six goals, and Erica Hale and Ahearn poured in three each.

“That was the toughest and most intense game we’ve played all year,” said Whitney Brooks, one of two Patriots coaches.

“It was a close one,” added Mount Anthony co-coach Chloe Griffin. “But we had faith in our players.”

The close loss established Woodstock as a contender, if there was ever any doubt. “We played a great game against a good Division I team,” said Soule.

The Wasps appear to be happy with their new coach. “We respect her,” Lauren Kaija said. “She’s a coach you can relate to but who also pushes you to do your best.”

Soule, 29, graduated from Woodstock High in 2004. She played four years of varsity lacrosse, basketball and soccer, and was a 1,000-point scorer in hoops as a point guard and led the lacrosse team with 32 goals as a senior. She was a two-time Marble Valley League first team selection in lacrosse and Rookie of the Year as a freshman.

At Saint Michael’s, she was assistant captain junior year and captain senior year, and in 2008 was third in scoring with 42 goals and five assists for 47 points, as the team went 9-7 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the Northeast-10 tournament. She totaled a career 136 goals and 21 assists for 157 points.

Her sister, Kaleigh Soule, is a former Woodstock lacrosse goalie and former coach at Hartford High, and is a physical education teacher at Ottaquechee School. Her brother, Austin, is a senior at Norwich University and a football player.

“It’s been a life full of athletics,” said Soule, who has returned to school full-time to get a teaching degree.

“I was in the business world for a few years and I loved it,” she said. “When I was in college I would come back in June and help with the high school team here, and when I graduated I helped coach jayvee and varsity for two years.”

Changing careers was a hard decision, Soule said, but “I did like the places where I worked and the business world.”

But the change felt right. “It was just one of those things, it was in the back of my mind,” she said. “And I thought if I don’t try it, then maybe I’ll regret it some day.”

While Woodstock’s schedule is loaded with D-I teams that can make wins hard to come by, it also has a flip side. “It makes us stronger to play up a level,” Soule said. “For us to play well against teams that are good can help us, if we go to the tournament in D-II.”

She says it would be nice if the Wasps could see more D-II teams during the regular season, however, so they’d know what to expect come playoff time. “It’s a short season, a fast season,” the coach said.

And so far this year, a good season.

Bill Porter can be reached at bporter@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.