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Kearsarge girls’ lacrosse team back in the semifinals

  • Kearsarge's Geneva Heffernan runs the ball down the field as Bishop Brady's Gabi Stuart defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Kearsarge's Geneva Heffernan runs the ball down the field as Bishop Brady's Gabi Stuart defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kearsarge's Anna Stowell (middle) and Geneva Heffernan celebrate their win in the quarterfinal game against Bishop Brady at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Kearsarge's Anna Stowell (middle) and Geneva Heffernan celebrate their win in the quarterfinal game against Bishop Brady at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bishop Brady's Isabel Leeming runs the ball in as Kearsarge's Libby Brooks defends during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Bishop Brady's Isabel Leeming runs the ball in as Kearsarge's Libby Brooks defends during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kearsarge's Haley Brook looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Sophie Palanges defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.     <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Kearsarge's Haley Brook looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Sophie Palanges defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kearsarge's Geneva Heffernan looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Gabi Stuart defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Kearsarge's Geneva Heffernan looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Gabi Stuart defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bishop Brady's Meg Houten (left) and Isabel Leeming watch as Brady starts to make a comeback during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Bishop Brady's Meg Houten (left) and Isabel Leeming watch as Brady starts to make a comeback during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • (From left) Kearsarge's Libby Brooks, Haley Brock and Hannah Anderson play around while running back to the bench after greeting the fans after winning the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    (From left) Kearsarge's Libby Brooks, Haley Brock and Hannah Anderson play around while running back to the bench after greeting the fans after winning the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kearsarge's Haley Brook looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Sophie Palanges defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.     <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Kearsarge's Haley Brook looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Sophie Palanges defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kearsarge's Geneva Heffernan runs the ball down the field as Bishop Brady's Gabi Stuart defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Kearsarge's Anna Stowell (middle) and Geneva Heffernan celebrate their win in the quarterfinal game against Bishop Brady at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Bishop Brady's Isabel Leeming runs the ball in as Kearsarge's Libby Brooks defends during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Kearsarge's Haley Brook looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Sophie Palanges defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.     <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Kearsarge's Geneva Heffernan looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Gabi Stuart defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Bishop Brady's Meg Houten (left) and Isabel Leeming watch as Brady starts to make a comeback during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.    <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • (From left) Kearsarge's Libby Brooks, Haley Brock and Hannah Anderson play around while running back to the bench after greeting the fans after winning the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Kearsarge's Haley Brook looks to pass the ball as Bishop Brady's Sophie Palanges defends her during the quarterfinal game at Kearsarge on Saturday, June 7, 2014.     <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Whether they be young players or experienced players, at this time of year, the girls on the Kearsarge lacrosse team know what it takes to win games.

Senior Libby Brooks scored five goals, including four of her team’s first five, freshman Anya Nowicki was outstanding in goal and the third-seeded Cougars defeated No. 6 Bishop Brady, 12-7, to advance to the Division III semifinals.

It’s the sixth straight trip to the semis for Kearsarge (12-2), but Coach Scott Slogic said this isn’t a seasoned roster that’s been through most of those journeys.

“It may not seem like it, but this was a rebuilding year for us, if you look at the number of freshmen and sophomores we have playing,” he said. “I’m incredibly proud of the girls to pull it together like a team like they did.”

It may not be the same old Kearsarge team, but it was the same old result. The Cougars gave up the first goal to the Giants’ Jill Provost, but blitzed Brady (9-7) by scoring the next six goals en route to taking a 9-2 halftime lead. Kearsarge went about this by employing a diverse attack, one in which the Cougars forwards were as happy to dart through the defense and shoot up close as take passes from the outside and fire off shots in stride.

“I stressed that they needed to play the game that they play,” Slogic said. “What I didn’t want to do was react to Brady. I wanted Brady to have to react to us. We play a pretty good pass-and-assist attack. … We played our game, in the first half, to a ‘T.’ ”

Brooks was the main cog in the Cougars offense, scoring the first goal with 17:39 left to tie the game at 1, and then scoring three in a row after sophomore Anna Stowell (four goals) made it 2-1. Brooks’s fourth goal, with 8:01 to go in the half, showed the rhythm of the offense as she was led perfectly by Stowell in a full sprint to get into position to score.

“We have our certain plays, not much different, we ran the same plays, they just really happened to click,” said Brooks, who scored her final goal to boost the lead to 8-2 with 1:26 left in the half. “We had some good feeds, good teamwork. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen our team play together so well.”

“(She’s) one of the best players in girls’ lacrosse in the state,” Slogic said of Brooks, who’s heading to UNH to play next year. “She’s like a coach on the field. She will tell girls where to go, who to guard, how to position themselves.”

Stowell scored twice more and Brooks and Haley Brook had goals before halftime, but Brady began to find a rhythm on offense once the game resumed. The turnaround began by gaining possession, as the Green Giants won four of the first five draws of the half, and crisper execution allowed them to rally back on the scoreboard. Jill Thomas (four goals) had a pair of goals and Steph Snow had another to make it 10-5, and Isabel Leeming scored when she got open, caught a long pass and fired in a shot to make it 10-6 with 12:21 to play and prompt a Kearsarge timeout.

“Sometimes we come, we play our full game, and sometimes we just struggle to get our feet underneath us and come out forceful,” Brady Coach Kate Hohenberger said. “They started to get it back together after halftime, they started realizing they’re a solid team, that they can score, they can give this team a game.”

It was a run Slogic expected the Giants to make at some point, with Thomas finding her way through the tough Kearsarge defense, but the Cougars re-asserted themselves following the timeout – with one of their youngest players leading the way. Nowicki made 12 saves during the game, seven of which came in the second half to prevent Brady’s brief rally from turning into something more. Geneva Heffernan (two goals) and Stowell scored to seal the win and another trip to Southern New Hampshire University for Kearsarge.

“This was her best game. She was dynamite,” Slogic said of Nowicki. “I was so proud to watch her come of age out there and take control. … In many ways, Anya was our most valuable player for this game.”

Steph Sloane upped her game in net in the second half for the Giants, whose season ends in the quarterfinals after the team went 7-8 last year.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. We have a great team, we made it this far, but I’m losing eight of my seniors, and that kills me,” Hohenberger said. “Each year we keep stepping it up the next level, so hopefully next year we can bring it even further.”

Kearsarge’s season has at least one more game left, and for the 11 juniors and seniors on the team, winning in this round is becoming a tradition.

“It does give you an advantage if you have players who have been in high-pressure games,” Slogic said. “We’ve had some unbelievably high-pressure games over the last five or six years.”

Even the players who weren’t around for them look like they know how to play them.

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

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The Kearsarge girls’ lacrosse team advanced to its sixth straight D-III semifinal. Still seeking their first title, the Cougars will try to make it to a fourth championship game in that time when they face John Stark in tomorrow’s semifinal. Kearsarge’s recent finishes: 2009 Lost to Hollis/Brookline, 11-6, in final 2010 Lost to Hollis/Brookline, 10-4, in final 2011 Lost to …

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