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MV’s dream season ends suddenly in final, 2-1

  • Merrimack Valley’s Cassidy Huckins (left) tries to muscle past Windham’s Rachel Lanouette during yesterday’s Division II field hockey championship. Top-ranked Windham beat the Pride, 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March / For the  Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley’s Cassidy Huckins (left) tries to muscle past Windham’s Rachel Lanouette during yesterday’s Division II field hockey championship. Top-ranked Windham beat the Pride, 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March / For the Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley players prepare to shake hands after their Division II championship loss to Windham at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley players prepare to shake hands after their Division II championship loss to Windham at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, lost 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

    Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.

    (Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

  • Merrimack Valley’s Cassidy Huckins (left) tries to muscle past Windham’s Rachel Lanouette during yesterday’s Division II field hockey championship. Top-ranked Windham beat the Pride, 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March / For the  Monitor)
  • Merrimack Valley players prepare to shake hands after their Division II championship loss to Windham at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)
  • Merrimack Valley plays Windham High School for the Division II field hockey championship at Bedford High School on Sunday, November 3, 2013. Merrimack Valley, ranked 6th in the division against Windham's top ranking, held out for a 1-1 tie, but lost 2-1 in overtime.<br/><br/>(Libby March for The Concord Monitor)

BEDFORD – The storybook season almost had the ending to go with it.

For most of yesterday’s Division II championship, the Cinderella storyline seemed set for the Merrimack Valley field hockey team. The Pride had weathered top-seeded Windham’s attack. It had taken the lead. And with nearly 10 minutes to go, it was maintaining that advantage while preventing the Jaguars from cashing in on opportunities to even the score.

Then everything changed. The Jaguars broke through, getting a goal with just under 10 minutes left, then getting another from Courtney Sweeny less than two minutes into overtime to take the title with a 2-1 victory at Bedford High School. It was the second straight dramatic comeback for Windham, while for the Pride, a postseason that had already featured two upsets fell just shy of adding a third.

“I’m not disappointed. I’m very happy with this season,” Coach Kim Kenney said. “I came into today thinking if we win, icing on the cake, and if we lose, we had a great season. How could I be disappointed with being a runner-up as a No. 6 seed?”

The Pride had already proven that its seeding was nothing more than a number. MV got to Bedford by topping No. 3 Souhegan and No. 2 Lebanon, and it went on the brink of knocking off the top three teams after enduring the Jaguars’ relentless attack in the first half and taking the lead on a Cassidy Huckins goal with 20:47 to play. Windham, which advanced to the final with an overtime victory over St. Thomas after scoring with eight seconds left in regulation, pulled out another late escape, getting a goal from Justine Levesque with 9:56 left to tie the game and set up an overtime finish.

MV had the first chance in the sudden death when Lily Davis took the ball down the left sideline into Windham territory, but the possession was broken up. Heartbreak followed soon after. Windham’s Rachel Lanouette and Sweeny led a 2-on-1 toward the Pride net, with Erin Frost the defender trying to break it up. Frost, a star all day for the team on offense and defense, lost her footing on the play, and after goalie Maggie Carey lunged to stop Lanouette’s chance, Sweeny knocked the ball past the sprawled-out keeper to end the game 1:52 into the extra period.

“Going into overtime, I knew that we could do this,” Frost said. “Seeing them score, my heart just dropped.”

“We were pretty confident in our overtime team, but we haven’t had people fall down like that,” Kenney said. “That just happens. There’s nothing you can do about that.”

Windham began the game looking like a team that had lost only one game all season, amassing eight penalty corners against two for MV in the first half alone, but couldn’t convert as the Pride defense, led by Frost, Autumn Hoyt, Brittany Fisher, Emily Masse and Carey (six saves), cut short opportunities without allowing the Jaguars too many clean looks at the goal.

As the Pride went into the half tied in a game it had barely played any offense in, Kenney knew the game was tilting in her team’s favor.

“I just said ‘We have them. It’s 0-0, ladies, at halftime,’ ” she said. “(I said) ‘this is great’ because in the homecoming game (a 4-1 loss to the Jaguars on Sept. 14), I think it was 3-0 at halftime. So I said ‘We can do this.’ ”

Her team followed her words after the break, regaining control of the game and capitalizing with 20:47 to play. Lily Davis brought the ball down the sideline, eluded a Windham defender and smacked a pass into the middle of the field. The ball skipped by Olivia Thurber, who had the lone goal in the semifinal win over Lebanon on a similar play, but was picked up by Huckins, who immediately redirected the ball into the net to give her team the lead.

Windham continued to mount the corners, however, and the staggering number of chances eventually caught up to MV. Eleven seconds after defensive standout Hoyt had to leave with a foot injury after blocking a shot on the team’s 12th corner, unlucky (for MV) No. 13 marked the breakthrough when Levesque took the ball at the top of the circle and blasted a shot by Carey to even the score with 9:56 left.

Windham kept up the pressure, picking up six more corners along the way, but didn’t find the net again – until overtime.

“We knew we were the team to beat this year. … The target on our back was huge,” Jaguars Coach Amanda Ward said. “No one just let us have it. Everyone made us work hard.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

Related

Div. II championship – how they scored

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Second half 9:13 – Cassidy Huckins scores up close on crossing pass from Lily Davis (1-0 MV) 20:10 – Justine Levesque scores off of penalty corner pass from Taylor Powell (1-1) Overtime 1:52 – Courtney Sweeny knocks in loose ball in front of net (2-1 Windham) …

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