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Gilford girls reflect on season

The Eagles have high hopes they can take the next step

Junior goalkeeper Paige Laliberte was named Gilford’s MVP for her efforts this fall. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 20, 2011
GILFORD – It was quite a late-season run by the Gilford High School girls' soccer team.

After losing five straight games, and being shut out in four of them, the Golden Eagles stood at a disappointing 3-6-1 on Sept. 27. October proved to be much kinder however, as Gilford finished its season on a 3-2-3 run over its final eight games, giving fifth-seeded Belmont all it could handle in the preliminary round of the Division III playoffs before falling 1-0.

"It was exciting to get into the playoffs in that position of knowing some of those teams in front of us didn't want play us," said Gilford coach Becky Zumbach. "We kept it close against Belmont and I think that showed them they can really play with those top teams."

Junior goalkeeper Paige Laliberte led the way for Gilford this fall, and the First-Team All-State selection was named Gilford's MVP for her efforts between the pipes. Laliberte had five shutouts on the season, and she also stopped two penalty kicks.

"It's good to have that foundation to build a team on," said Zumbach. "It's really hard to be a team that wins any games if you don't have a good goalkeeper. From the beginning, we put a focus on defense and having her as the backbone of that. I'm just very, very lucky to have somebody like that who has worked hours and hours on her own trying to master her position. She wants to be a high-level college goalkeeper and we benefit from her desires. She kept us in some key games and that gave the team the momentum that we needed to put the wind back in their sails."

Junior captain Molly Dietrich was a Second-Team All-State selection, and the Eagles' center midfielder did it all on both ends of the field for Gilford. Dietrich scored four goals against Inter-Lakes in a 5-0 win on Sept. 7.

"She gave us a solid foundation in the middle for us to work off of," said Zumbach of Dietrich. "Clearly we have her there to help us more offensively but she also knows when to get back and help out in some of those big games."

Other awards for Gilford included Most Improved (Lisa Osborne, Ali Daigle), Sportsmanship Award (Rachel Sanborn) and Coaches' Awards (Katherine Rice, Megan Pleeter).

"I was definitely excited from the first day of preseason on," said Zumbach, who took over this fall after coaching at the middle school level. "It was definitely big to win that first game against Raymond to start on a positive note that way. Then we went on that streak where we weren't winning games but we were in just about every game. One of my big goals was to be able to see progress and I saw that as the year went on. By the end of the year, they were making the passes we wanted them to make, especially against Kingswood when we beat them in the play-in game."

Despite losing eight seniors, there are plenty of key pieces back next fall for the Eagles. Junior Katherine Rice played big minutes in a variety of spots while classmates Sydney Strout, Sarah Veazey, Gabi Defregger and Abby Harris all return as well.

"I'm excited about next year…we have those seven juniors that are already on varsity," said Zumbach. "But it's a group that can play all over. Katherine Rice is coming back but I wouldn't be able to tell you what she's coming back as because she played everywhere successfully. It's good that I have players coming back in certain positions but the really good thing is they don't necessarily have to stay in those positions."

Zumbach also lauded her team's attitude, as she felt the transition as a new coach was pretty seamless.

"I think I was very fortunate to have this group as my first team," the coach said. "I knew from the beginning that I inherited a good group personality-wise. And as far as having an experienced group that was fairly cohesive, that's something that can be hard to create so the fact that it was already there helped."

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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