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Local lacrosse players thriving at New Hampshire’s D-III colleges

  • Tess Masci

  • Matt Richard

  • Charles Hacking



Monitor staff
Thursday, March 22, 2018

There’s been a changing of the goalie for both the women’s and men’s lacrosse teams at Plymouth State University. And the incoming cage keepers both have local roots – Loudon’s Zel Kerkel and Weare’s Clarissa Foote.

Kerkel hasn’t seen much action before this season. The junior from Merrimack Valley played in just one game each of the last two years, but he’s started all four contests this season for Plymouth State.

“Zel has worked his butt off,” PSU men’s coach Gordon Webb said. “He’s made amazing strides since his freshman year.”

Kerkel is still making strides. After giving up 15 goals on 25 shots (40 save percentage) in the season opener at the University of New England, a 17-4 loss, Kerkel’s save percentage rose to 55.6 in the next game, a 14-12 win at Norwich March 10, and then went up to 63.3 percent in an 11-7 loss at Curry College on March 13.

Kerkel took a step back on Tuesday at Wheaton, stopping just 42.1 percent of the shots on goal in a 12-10 loss. He and the rest of the Panthers (1-3) now have plenty of time to learn from the losses and get better – they don’t play again until March 31 when they host Western Connecticut for their home opener.

Foote is trying to fill the shoes of Meg Brault, who played 838 of the 900 available minutes in goal last year for the PSU women’s team, the defending Little East Conference champs who were picked to finish first again in the LEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Junior Emilee Wargo and Foote, a senior, have been competing for Brault’s vacated spot.

“Emilee and Clarissa are both solid goalies with different strengths,” Panthers coach Sandy Bridgeman said before the season began. “They have worked hard and will continue to push each other every day.”

Foote, a John Stark grad, has earned the top spot to open the season. After playing in just four games during her first three years at Plymouth, Foote has started the first thee games of the 2018 campaign for PSU, posting a 1-2 record with a 14.34 goals-against average and a 48.6 save percentage.

The other local player on the PSU women’s roster is Veronyca Daniels, a junior midfielder from Concord High. Daniels has played in all three games for the Panthers this season with one start, two goals and six shots.

Keene State

Just behind Foote, Daniels and the defending champion Panthers in the LEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll was Keene State, which was picked third with 27 points (Plymouth State totaled 36 points in the poll and Eastern Connecticut had 28). And the Owls also have some local flavor – Gilford’s Emily Parker is a junior midfielder for Keene State, Laconia’s Gabby Smith is a sophomore attack and Hopkinton’s Tess Masci is a sophomore midfielder.

After starting in 17 of Keene State’s 18 games last year as a freshman, Masci has started in all seven games this season for the Owls, who are just 1-6 after two overtime losses and two more losses by a tight three goals. Masci has five goals and two assists this season and is tied for third on the team in caused turnovers with nine.

Smith started all 18 games last year as a freshman when she led the team in assists (22) and was tied for third in points (39). The Laconia High product has come off the bench in four of her six appearances this season, but she still leads the team in assists (eight) and is tied for fourth in total points (12).

Parker appeared in 16 games last season and she has started six games this year. The junior has four goals and an assist. The Owls will travel to Plymouth State on April 17 for their regular-season meeting with the Panthers.

The next day, April 18, the Keene State men’s lacrosse team will make the trip north to Plymouth to face the Panthers. And there’s a chance Zerkel will be facing a former Capital Area rival in goal – Bow’s Chase Chamberlin.

Senior Mathew Howe has started all six games this season for Keene State, the four-time defending LEC champs who were chosen as the unanimous favorite to finish first again in the LEC Preseason Poll. But Chamberlin, a freshman, has appeared in three games for the Owls (3-3), and has seen more time than the other two goalies on the roster, J.J. Tinney and Cameron Eddy, both sophomores.

New England College

The most decorated local product playing college lacrosse wears an NEC uniform – Weare’s Matt Richard. The NEC senior midfielder is the two-time defending North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year and he’s already racked up three NAC Player of the Week honors this season and leads the Pilgrims (1-4) in points (25) and assists (16) and is tied for the most goals (nine).

Richard is not the only former General who made the short trip from Weare to Henniker for college. Sophomore attack Jacob Blanchette, the NAC Rookie of the Year last year, has six goals and an assist through five games this season. And grad student midfielder Tom Zervos, who spent a year at Concordia University after graduating from John Stark, has a goal and an assist through five games.

Canterbury’s Charles Hacking, a Belmont High grad, has joined Richard and Blanchette on attack this season. The freshman has started four of NEC’s five games and is tied for second on the team in goals (eight) and is third in points (nine).

The Pilgrims’ defense has a pair of young local players – sophomore Cam Cassavaugh from Concord High and freshman David Benjamin from Kearsarge. They have both started all five games for NEC and have combined for 10 ground balls and five caused turnovers.

The NEC women’s team features three local players – Belmont High’s Kaitlyn Berry and Madison Lacharite and Laconia’s Giuliana Kelvin, who went to high school at Holderness. Berry, a junior defender, has started all five games for the Pilgrims (3-2) and is tied for fifth on the team in ground balls (11). Lacharite, a freshman, has played in all five games and has one assist and five ground balls. Kelvin, another freshman, has one appearance, one start and one assist.

Colby-Sawyer

Berry, Lacharite and the Pilgrims will travel to New London on April 11 to take on the Colby-Sawyer women’s lacrosse team in what figures to be a tight contest – NEC was picked to finish second in the NAC preseason poll, Colby-Sawyer was picked third and both teams have started the season 3-2.

Hopkinton’s Sierra Schuster was an All-NAC Second Team pick for the Chargers last year as a sophomore when she led the team in caused turnovers (41), was second in points (58), goals (52) and draw controls (64) and had six game-winning goals in Colby-Sawyer’s 10 victories. Schuster has picked up where she left off this season and is second on the team in points (19) and caused turnovers (four) and third in goals (14) and assists (five).

Merrimack Valley grad Talia Dinger is now a freshman defender for Colby-Sawyer and has appeared in two games.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)