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On to the finals

Kingswood lacrosse girls push past Kearsarge to earn berth in title tilt

CAITLYN BROOKS fights to keep control of the ball minutes before scoring the game-winning goal against Kearsarge on Sunday. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 06, 2011
MANCHESTER — In many ways, the stars were aligned for a Kingswood win.

First and foremost, the Kingswood lacrosse girls were facing off against Kearsarge, the same team that had knocked the Knights out of the playoffs the last three years.

And secondly, it was assistant coach Kaitlin Reilly's birthday.

With the stars seemingly aligned, the Knight girls did the rest, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and holding on for a 9-8 win over the Cougars, sending the Knights on to the championship game for the first time in program history.

"They wanted it, they're really been preparing for this," coach Ali Cushing said. "That was three years in the making."

With the win, the Knights revenged a regular season loss for the second game in a row. They bested Oyster River in the first round and both the Bobcats and Cougars beat the Knights in the regular season. The other team the bested Kingswood, Plymouth, was the Knights' opponent in the Division III finals, which took place after deadline Wednesday night.

Kingswood came out of the gate pretty strong, controlling play for the first few minutes and getting a few goals to show for it.

Kelsey Rodgers and Megan Lander had shots in the first minutes, but the Kearsarge keeper held her own.

However, with 3:14 gone in the game, Rodgers was awarded a free shot and she buried it behind the goalie for a 1-0 lead. Kingswood never looked back.

Just 17 seconds later, Erin Maguire took the faceoff and brought it right down the field, putting the ball in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.

Kingswood continued to pressure, with Molly Gwizdala and Rodgers sending bids just high.

Kearsarge finally got the ball back to the other end, forcing Kellie Lander to step up and make a big save.

A big defensive play by Kathryn Franklin set up Kingswood's third goal, as she hit Erinn Vittum with a pass and Vittum sent Gwizdala in on net and the sophomore buried it for a 3-0 lead with 17:58 to go.

Kearsarge finally responded just 22 seconds later, netting their first goal of the game.

However, Kellie Lander had a couple more big saves and good defense from Amy Thornton and Rachel Lapar kept the Cougars off the board.

With 14:28 to go in the half, Megan Lander buried a shot to push the lead to 4-1 and just 12 seconds later, Rodgers took the faceoff in for a tally and Kingswood had a 5-1 lead with 14:16 to go in the half.

Kearsarge began knocking on the door, testing the Knight keeper with a number of shots, but Kellie Lander held her own, turning away four solid bids. Franklin also provided some solid defense in front of the net for Kingswood.

The Knights got a big power play chance with 7:22 to go, but couldn't convert, though Thornton hit Megan Lander for a wide open shot, only to have the defense sweep in and knock the ball away at the last minute.

With 1:56 to play, Kearsarge converted on a free shot and after some more good pressure from Maguire and Thornton, got a steal and drove down the field to put a shot in the net with 19 seconds to go, cutting Kingswood's lead to 5-3 at halftime.

Kearsarge wasted no time cutting the lead to one, scoring just 31 seconds into the second half and forcing Kellie Lander to make two more big saves to keep her team ahead.

Maguire drilled a shot off the crossbar and also had another shot stopped and one sail wide, keeping the game close.

However, Maguire was able to convert a free shot with 17:26 to go in the game to give Kingswood a 6-4 lead, but Kearsarge battled right back, scoring less than a minute later to cut the lead to one again.

Just 43 seconds after that, Gwizdala netted her second of the game on a free shot for a 7-5 Kingswood lead, but Kearsarge wouldn't go away. The Cougars pulled to within one with 11:02 to go.

The two teams went back and forth over the next seven minutes with neither team scoring, but the Knights were finally able to take advantage of Kearsarge's best defensive player collecting her second yellow card of the game, as Rodgers banged home a goal with 3:57 to play for an 8-6 lead.

Kearsarge didn't slow down, drilling home another with 2:59 to go, but Kingswood was able to slow the pace a bit and move the ball around in an attempt to run out the clock.

Caitlyn Brooks then switched from her natural left hand to her right and buried a shot with 43 seconds left for a 9-7 Kingswood lead.

That goal came in quite handy, as Kearsarge scored with 30 seconds to go to cut the lead to one.

However, Kingswood held off the attack for the final 30 seconds, controlling the ball and earning a trip to the finals.

"The quicker you get the lead, the better," Cushing said of her team's fast start. "We had to be focused and had to play our game."

She noted that the Knights worked on beating the zone defense in practice leading up to the game, but pointed out that the easiest way to beat the zone is through fast breaks.

"The zone can't set up if we get a fast break," the Knight mentor said.

Cushing praised the Knights all the way around.

"It's nice to have a great team and a great goalie," she said. "I can't say enough about what they've done. They're amazing, amazing kids."

Kellie Lander had 11 saves in net for the Knights, who were back on the road to Southern New Hampshire University after deadline on Wednesday to face off with Plymouth in the Division III finals.

Look for updates from the finals on our Web site at www.NewHampshireLakesandMountains.com or on the sports section's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Salmon-Press-Sports-Wolfeboro/. Look for complete coverage of that game in next week's edition.

Martin Lord Osman
Armen Kevorkian
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Varney Smith
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