Previews of local schools’ NHIAA playoff matchups
High school tournaments today
Division II semifinals
At Bill Ball Stadium, Exeter
No. 9 Pembroke (12-6-0) vs. No. 5 Coe-Brown (12-4-2), 6 p.m.
Head to head: The teams split their two games, with each team winning, 1-0, on the road.
Previous tournament games: Pembroke ousted No. 8 MV, 5-1, and upset No. 1 Portsmouth, 2-0. Coe-Brown tipped Alvirne, 3-2, in double overtime and edged No. 4 Alvirne, 1-0.
Notes: These teams know each other as well as any opponent they’ll face in the postseason, and though both have changed some throughout the season, they both know they’ll be challenged. The first time they met, back in August, Christen Gallant scored off a corner kick from Kaitlyn Ross in double overtime to end a scoreless drought and give Coe-Brown the win. The scoring came early when they met late in September, this time with Pembroke’s Emilee Harlow connecting in the 12th minute off an assist from Julia Currier. But the bottom line in both game’s was the outstanding work of the defenses, anchored by goalies Alley Savioli and Kristin Kezar and sweepers Sarah Curtin and Molly Hamilton for Coe-Brown and Pembroke, respectively. Expect them to be tested again, especially with a trip to the title game awaiting the winner.
Division III semifinals
At Merrimack Valley H.S.
No. 7 Campbell (13-4-1) vs. No. 3 Hopkinton (14-2-2), 4 p.m.
Head to head: The teams tied, 2-2, then Hopkinton won, 3-1, two weeks later in Litchfield.
Previous tournament games: Campbell bested No. 10 Bishop Brady, 5-2, and No. 2 Belmont, 3-1. Hopkinton posted 4-0 shutouts against No. 14 Somersworth and No. 11 Prospect Mountain.
Notes: The rematch, one year later. Last year at this time, Hopkinton rode a goal from Courtney Benson and the shutout goaltending of Kacey Smith to an upset victory over Campbell in the semifinals on its way to the Division III title. Both players are back, as are many of the cast of characters from that playoff meeting. Benson has been at her best against Campbell, notching a hat trick when the Hawks won in Litchfield earlier this season and notching a goal an assisting on another in the teams’ first meeting this year. That first game was scoreless through the first half until the teams traded goals in the second half, with Campbell answering each Hawk goal. Benson gave Hopkinton a 2-0 halftime lead in the rematch, and Smith combined for 27 saves in the two games this year. Angela Valenti, who started her high school career at Bishop Guertin in Division I, is an offensive threat for the Cougars, as is Sydney Crema.
No. 5 Raymond (14-4-0) vs. No. 1 Bow (18-0-0), 6 p.m.
Head to head: Bow won both meetings, 1-0 at Raymond and 2-1 in overtime at home.
Previous tournament games: Raymond blanked No. 12 Fall Mountain, 3-0, and No. 13 H-D, 4-0. Bow ousted No. 16 Kearsarge, 5-0, and No. 8 Monadnock, 4-1.
Notes: Just like the night’s first Division III semifinal, this one, too, is a rematch of last year, which the Falcons won, 2-0, so these teams are more than just a little familiar with each other, as well. Last playoffs, Maddie Cheney scored and Brie Achorn and Sarah Carlson had assists with Janna Corsetti earning the shutout, and they’re all back for another shot for the Falcons. The first two rematches this season were tight affairs. In the first, Raymond played a defensive style, with Maddie Lust breaking through for Bow in the 24th minute off assists from Taylor Morrison and Caitlyn Keenan. Corsetti earned the shutout, but faced mostly shots from the outside. The second meeting was even tighter, with Cheney scoring in the fifth minute on an assist from Christy Vinnenberg and the Bow defense holding the 1-0 lead until the final minute of regulation, when Hannah McNicholas struck for Raymond. Carlson ended it early in overtime for Bow. Expect the third meeting this year to be another close affair.
Division II semifinals
At Pinkerton Academy
No. 4 Gilford (14-3) vs. No. 1 Coe-Brown (16-1), 7 p.m.
Head to head: Coe-Brown beat Gilford, 3-1, late in the season.
Previous tournament matches: Gilford swept No. 5 Milford, 3-0. Coe-Brown swept No. 8 Portsmouth, 3-0.
Notes: Coe-Brown comes in as the favorite, being the top seed, having lost just once (to Somersworth) and having beaten the Golden Eagles already this season. But Gilford is Gilford, after all, and Coe-Brown knows that come the playoffs, the Eagles are always dangerous. In the last 18 years, Gilford has been to the championship match 17 times, winning 14 titles. The Bears are looking to reach the title match for the first time in school history, and the win over Gilford less than three weeks ago has got to be huge for their confidence. In that match, the Eagles grabbed the first set, 25-22 – becoming just the fourth team to take a set from the Bears this season – but Coe-Brown rallied back and got stronger as the match progressed, winning 25-21, 25-17, 25-14. They got big games at the net from hitters Megan Rouillard, Abby Ahern and Emma Easler, strong setting from Lacey Locke and Sadie Steffen and excellent defense from Ahern and Debbie Peabody. They’ll need another strong effort across the board to deny Gilford a title spot for the first time since 2008.
Division III semifinals
At Plymouth State University
No. 3 Winnisquam (16-2) vs. No. 2 Sunapee (17-1), 5 p.m.
Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
Previous tournament matches: Winnisquam swept both No. 14 Prospect Mountain and No. 11 Newfound, 3-0. Sunapee swept No. 15 Wilton-Lyndeborough, 3-0, and beat No. 7 Belmont, 3-1.
Notes: Sunapee comes in with one fewer match loss, but Winnisquam has lost one fewer set overall (11 to the Lakers’ 12). So on paper, not much separates the two teams. A look at the schedules might say otherwise, however. Sunapee had just six matches during the regular season against tournament teams, and only three of those were against teams with winning records. Winnisquam played only two more matches against tournament teams, but had six matches against teams with winning records and played one match up a division. The strength of schedule should help the Bears as they go deeper into the postseason in an effort to defend their championship. In the first two playoff matches, Winnisquam has shown off its depth, led by the net play of Hannah Chapin (who has 500-plus career kills), Bailey Long (who has 200-plus career aces) and Mo Raymond. Erica Doubleday serves as quarterback for the offense, while Chapin and Carissa Archibald are often among the leaders in digs.