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Bishop Brady, Hopkinton advance to D-III girls’ soccer final

  • The Hopkinton team swarms Elise Miner (6) after she scores the first goal to go up 1-0.   Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography—

  • Hopkinton’s Kally Murdough (9) heads the ball away from an advancing Stevens’ forward. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography—

  • Hopkinton’s Lillie Presti (5) jumps to block a pass from Stevens’ captain Alexis Aiken. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography—

  • Bishop Brady’s Adrienne Brummett (left) jumps into the arms of her sister, Sheridan, after Sheridan scored her second goal of the night to put Brady up 3-1 during Monday’s Division III semifinals in Laconia. Sheridan finished with six goals in all. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography—

  • Bishop Brady’s Sheridan Brummett (22) dribbles as St. Thomas’s Jamie Murray defends during Monday’s Division III semifinal at Laconia High School. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography—

  • Bishop Brady’s Adreinne Brummett celebrates after scoring the first Brady goal to tie the game 1-1. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography—

Monitor staff
Published: 11/4/2019 9:31:51 PM

LACONIA – There was a point during this season when coach Mike Zahn didn’t think his Hopkinton girls’ soccer team would be able to defend its 2018 Division III title. In fact, Zahn wasn’t even sure the Hawks would even reach the semifinals, and he told them as much … right before Monday’s semifinal against No. 2 Stevens.

“I told the girls before the game that halfway through the season I actually didn’t think we’d get this far. But about two weeks ago, starting with the Fall Mountain game (a 5-0 win on Oct. 22), we started moving the ball nicely and things just started to click.”

No. 6 Hopkinton was certainly clicking on Monday at Laconia High’s Bank of New Hampshire Stadium. The Hawks dominated possession and cruised to a 2-0 win against Stevens (14-3-1), the same team they beat in last year’s final.

Hopkinton (15-4-0) will now face No. 1 Bishop Brady in Sunday’s final. The Green Giants got six goals from Sheridan Brummett and posted an 8-2 win against No. 5 St. Thomas in the second semifinal.

Hopkinton’s growth this season can be measured in its games against Stevens. The Cardinals won at Hopkinton, 2-1, on Sept. 26. But the Hawks won in Claremont, 2-0, on Oct. 10. And Monday’s win, which saw Hopkinton hold huge advantages in both shots (18-0) and corners (4-0), was its most decisive win against Stevens and perhaps its best result of the season.

“Our team has possessed so much better (since the loss to Stevens), we’ve grown as a team, and our team chemistry has grown up so much that we just got it together,” Hopkinton sophomore Annie Higginbotham said.

That possession game was on full display in the semifinals. Hawks midfielder Caitlin Clark was distributing passes all over the field from her central midfield position right from the start, Jess Carney and Lauren Charron looked dangerous down the wings and freshman forward Maddy Carmichael had touch after touch in good attacking positions.

“I knew a goal was coming at some point, but the problem is when you get in that position where you keep possessing so much and they keep dropping and dropping, it’s hard to break down that last line of defense,” Zahn said.

And that last line of defense is very good for Stevens. Alexis Aiken was a rock at center back and she got lots of support from sophomore outside backs Zahna Rice and Riley Murphy.

“I don’t think (Stevens) was as strong going forward this year as they were last year, they lost their big goal scorer, but defensively they’re tough,” Zahn said. “They’re still the same Stevens defense they’ll always be.”

The Hawks finally picked the lock with 7:39 left in the first half off a corner kick. Charron earned the corner when her shot was deflected wide. She was also the one who took the corner, but she only touched it short to Higginbotham, who was all by herself. The sophomore took the space, dribbled along the end line and fired a pass into the middle that freshman sub Elise Miner redirected past Stevens goalie Fionah Carbee (eight saves) and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“We’ve worked on short corners all season, and most of the teams have no idea what we’re doing the first time,” said Higginbotham, who also admitted she wasn’t exactly aiming for Miner with the pass. “I just saw the group of white (jerseys) and I knew one of them could get it in the goal.”

Zahn coaches the short corner, but he doesn’t call for it during games.

“I give the girls the choice, I don’t tell them what to do and what not to do,” Zahn said. “That’s what I really enjoy about coaching these girls. I’ve given them fundamentals and the basics, and they just go and make their own choices most of the time, which is a good thing.”

The Cardinals made some tactical adjustments at halftime, but they never threatened Hopkinton goalie Emily Fleegle. On the rare occasions the ball went into the Hawks end, senior defender Ellie Owen took care of things before Fleegle was needed.

Hopkinton looked ready to double its lead throughout the second half, but that took until the last minute. That’s when Clark and Carmichael combined for a pretty goal to finish the scoring and the game.

“That goal at the end was beautiful,” Zahn said. “That’s the type of combination play I was looking for.”

Just like the semifinals was Hopkinton’s third meeting with Stevens, the final will be the Hawks third game of the season against top-ranked Brady. Hopkinton won both of those contests – 1-0 on Sept. 19 in Contoocook and 2-0 on Oct. 1 in Concord – the only two losses of the season for the Giants (17-2-0).

St. Thomas actually took a 1-0 lead against Brady midway through the first half. Blanca Recoder’s free kick from 25 yards out caromed straight down off the cross bar and Mandy Behre was first to the rebound and knocked it in to put the Saints (14-5-0) on top with 23:42 left in the opening half.

Brady answered just a few minutes later on a free kick from Adrienne Brummett. The kick was from 30 yards away, but Brummett placed it perfectly over the head of St. Thomas goalie Ava Perfilio and under the bar to tie the game at 1-1 with 20:27 on the first-half clock.

St. Thomas nearly went back ahead in the 33rd minute, but Brady keeper Emily Senko made a diving save that started a counter in the other direction. That counter ended with Sheridan Brummett holding off two defenders, waiting until the perfect moment to shoot and then slotting it home for a 2-1 lead with 7:19 left before halftime.

Always hungry for more goals, Sheridan Brummett found another just three minutes later. This time she hit it with her left foot from 30 yards out on the left wing and put it into the right side netting to make it 3-1, the lead the Giants took into halftime.

Brummett scored again with 23:14 left in the second half on a shot that took a deflection and still had enough power to reach the back of the net. Adrienne Brummett got her second with 19:55 on the clock to make it 5-1.

The Saints got one back on a penalty kick from Morgan Atwell with 12:28 to play in the game, but that was answered by three goals from Brummett in a two-minute span.

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

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