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A sudden end to Littleton's title hopes

November 12, 2009
MANCHESTER — The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association calls it "sudden victory" — a politically correct nod to soften the death knell of defeat.

After a scoreless 80 minutes of regulation play between Littleton High and Derryfield School last Saturday in the championship match of the girls Class S Soccer Tournament — the public address announcer informed the crowd of 471 that a sudden-victory, 20-minute overtime period was at hand.

After Derryfield's MacKenzie Logan scored the game's lone goal at 13:25 of the extra session — cold reality hovered above the synthetic surface at Larkin Field. Littleton's previously undefeated season had ended in a 1-0 sudden-death loss to the Cougars on the campus of Southern New Hampshire University.

"It is a cruel sport. But it's a great sport. It's a wonderful sport to watch. But when it comes to this part of it — it's devastating sometimes," Littleton coach Kory Pinard said. "The girls take it to heart. They all put their hearts out there for the whole season — they left it here."

Derryfield, seeded second in the tournament, led 7-5 in shots. Top-seeded Littleton led 5-2 in corner kicks. Both Littleton sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Glidden and Derryfield senior keeper Andrea Green made one save. But with 6:35 left in overtime, Glidden and Logan converged on a loose ball 10 yards out on the right wing. Logan gained control and knocked it home. Mary Coppinger was credited with the assist.

"All it takes is one (goal) — just one — that one. Taylor did her best to come out and slide tackle — just respect for the girl who scored. She took her time and kept composure and that's what you've got to do to win a game," said Littleton senior forward Reannan Gardner. "We should have won that game. We outplayed them. My team played great — just one of those fluke things that happens at the end of a game. I'm proud of each and every one of (my teammates)."

Every play is magnified in overtime and the Cougars took advantage of their game-winning opportunity.

"The ball was over on the left side. I went over to help (Littleton sophomore defender) Ashley Hill and they just made a good pass into the middle," said Littleton senior fullback Katie Boivin. "We got beat. I think we played pretty good defense throughout the game but they played better offense at that one moment."

In sudden death it's a tossup and Derryfield capitalized on the free ball.

"It's anybody's ballgame when it goes to overtime. They got lucky," said Littleton coach Kory Pinard. "That was not a pretty goal by any means. But we could have got the same result as they did."

Derryfield School in Manchester is just a one-tenth of a mile up the road from Southern New Hampshire's Larkin Field. Derryfield's home pitch is synthetic turf as well. With no need to adjust for travel time or playing surface, the Cougars seemed right at home.

"I still feel we outplayed them. To come down here and play on turf — they play on turf every day — it's a little bit of an advantage to them," said Pinard after the Crusaders made the 102-mile bus ride down Interstate 93 for the final. "But I still think we're the better team, I really feel that way. It is a home field for them."

Pinard could not fault his players, who hustled until the final goal.

"They took part in something that was really great today, just didn't have the outcome that we wanted," Pinard said. "Still we're 18-1-1, that's nothing to be ashamed of."

Derryfield (16-3) was able to bottle up Littleton's usually potent offense. Littleton's Gardner scored six goals in the first three rounds of the tournament but the Cougars limited her to just two shots and double- and triple-teamed her throughout the match.

"Their defense is pretty good. Their defense is just as strong as our defense," Pinard said. "I think both teams had a defensive game. I still think if you look at time spent on one end or another, we're on their end more than they were on our end — that's for sure."

Pinard said the Crusaders' lack of goal-scoring wasn't because of a lack of hustle. Sometimes all the effort in the world doesn't show up on the scoreboard. One loose ball spun cruelly in front of the net — that's the only thing that counted in the Class S final.

"Great effort, it was awesome effort. You couldn't expect anything more," Pinard said. "They're a group of girls from Littleton, New Hampshire, that just played their hearts out for the entire season."

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