The Engineers huddle together in support after dropping the finals in penalty kicks. James Barrett. (click for larger version)
November 11, 2013MANCHESTER — When the top seeded Woodsville Engineers girls' soccer team arrived at Larkin Field on the beautiful campus of Southern New Hampshire University for the NHIAA Division IV championship game, they were a clear favorite to win. However, the Sunapee Lakers would relish the opportunity to play the underdogs and sweep away the title hopes of the hard fighting Engineer squad.
With top player Louisa Noble hobbled with a dislocated knee, the Engineers knew they were going to have difficulties moving the ball to gritty and skilled forwards Paige and Dee Martin. However, the defensive play of Julia Bowman helped deny the Lakers any solid chances on offense and shut down the Lakers' top scorer, Abigail Armstrong.
To get to the championship, the Engineers had some hard fought game they had to win including a game against the Gorham Huskies, who had tied them 0-0 in the regular season. But now in the finals, all that mattered was coming home with the victory. Unfortunately, the Lakers played a solid possession style, which worked heavily against the north-to-south style of the Engineers. Leading the Laker charge was Armstrong. Although Armstrong was unable to score during the game, she did provide some physical play that rivaled that of the Engineers and led to some highly contested balls in an emotional game that left nothing extra to be desired of her.
Play picked up with early chances by Sunapee. The Lakers moved the ball well inside their offensive end with the Engineers unable to get much of anything in the form of offense. That remained the trend for the entire first half. Sunapee came to play and the Engineers needed to match them if they wanted to come away with the win.
When the second half began, Woodsville was still struggling a bit. However, as time ticked away, the Engineers began to look better and better, primarily due to the fact that their physical play was too much for the Sunapee players deal with both physically and mentally.
Both teams battled, but with Noble hurt, when she did play she could only operate at about 20 percent, with a bum knee wrapped in a brace, Noble was unable to kick with any type of power, run for any speed, cut with any agility, and win any 50-50 balls. Despite those health conditions, Noble was sent out repeatedly with the nod of her coach, Ann Loud.
"Louisa would give me the look when on the bench and I knew I had to put her in," Loud commented after the game. "With her mom's permission, if Louisa thought she could play, I would put her in."
Risking a more serious injury to her knee, Noble fought through the pain. After aggravating the injured knee two times, Loud was forced to take Noble out and put a healthy player in.
With time ticking away late in the second half, the Engineers had some close chances but none came to fruition. The same went for the two overtime periods, where the Engineer girls were close to putting the tightly contested overtime period away when they rang two shots off the post in the dying seconds. There was no doubt that had there been one more overtime period, allowing the game to be decided by the teams instead of by a select few individuals, the Engineers would have won and put away the exhausted Lakers squad. In the overtime period, the play of the Martin sisters was phenomenal. As was the brick wall that was the Engineers' defensive unit.
Then after of 100 minutes of strong team play, the game was sent to penalty kicks where a single individual's talent would reluctantly decide the outcome of the championship game. With Tori Clough in goal for the Engineers, the Woodsville team had some confidence. Unfortunately, the Lakers had other things in mind as they blasted away and won the finals 3-1 in penalty kicks.
When all was said and done, the Engineers had nothing to be ashamed about. They played a Sunapee Lakers team that was more than up to the challenge of taking them on in the finals. Bowman, Clough and the Martin sisters led the charge for the Engineers but came up just short when it mattered most.
"I wanted the whole team to step up when it mattered but when you deal with the injuries we were dealing with it is hard to get where we were. Its just the luck of the draw," Loud replied after the loss. "But our girls played well, Julia [Bowman] in particular on defense."
Earlier in the season, Loud commented in an interview that this 2013 Engineers team is her "favorite that she has ever coached" and that they are "a lot of fun to coach."
With a smile and nod, Loud reiterated those sentiments after the championship loss.
"It really started hitting home yesterday during our last practice. It is hard to see these girls go but that is part of the territory. We are already focused next year."
With the devastating loss to the fifth-seeded Sunapee Lakers, the number one-seeded Engineers saw their undefeated record shatter before their eyes. However, still finishing the 2013 season with the record of 18-1-1, the Engineers gave it everything they had, but in the end a better team beat them.
Even though the Woodsville Engineers are losing several players to graduation, they retain some solid talent. There is no doubt that the Engineers are poised for another run next season as Loud will be entering her 26th year of coaching soccer and she has built a strong team with the principles of strength, teamwork, dedication, winning and above all else, sportsmanship.
A terrific season for the 2013 Woodsville Engineers girls' soccer team comes to a close as they bring home the second place trophy for the trophy case.