Girls’ lacrosse: Experienced Kearsarge squad ready for title defense

  • Kearsarge’s Emma Sauerwein (left) and Izabella Von Beren double team a Derryfield player during the Division III championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett last June. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

  • Kearsarge’s Leslie Angus (1) cradles the ball during the Division III girls’ lacrosse championship game at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett last June. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

  • Kearsarge’s Leslie Angus (left) fights off Laconia’s Abigail Crowell behind the Sachems’ goal during a game last spring. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Sunday, April 08, 2018

Don’t ask Kearsarge coach Hilary Grimes what her expectations are for the girls’ lacrosse season.

Grimes and her Kearsarge Cougars, winners of the 2017 Division III championship as the tournament’s sixth seed, proved last year that predictions are pointless. 

“I’m not making any predictions this year,” she said. “I thought last year would be a rebuild for us.”

No one could have predicted at this time last year how far the Cougars would go. Even after Kearsarge made the tournament, they had to defeat the 2016 champion Laconia in comeback fashion in the quarterfinals and edge a very talented Bow squad in the semis.

Against Derryfield in the championship game at SNHU, Kearsarge turned a 5-0 deficit in the first half into a 10-8 win. It was their fifth appearance in the title game since 2009 and their first win on that stage.

It also made a believer in Grimes that once the tournament bracket is set, it’s anyone’s year to win the title.

“Winning the championship last year puts a target on your back, but anything can happen,” she said. “Another team can come in as the six seed and do the same we did last year. Our season shows the standings don’t really count as long as you make it to the playoffs.”

The team has been at practice for a few weeks now, swinging inside and out between the gym and a few turf fields in the region. They open Tuesday at home against Brattleboro Union.

The Cougars bring back most of its lineup from last spring but lost a couple of key seniors to graduation. Those two, midfielder Maicy Hansen and goalie Anya Nowicki, played crucial roles especially in the tournament. Both were named to the All-State second team in Division III at the end of the season.

Replacing the Nowicki in goal will be tough, and it’s a new challenge for Grimes. Now entering her fourth season as head coach, Grimes never had to manage the position with Nowicki filling the crease each season. 

This spring, the Cougars will look to sophomore Marissa Pickman and freshman Erin Wheeler to step up at goalie. Pickman was the JV goalie last spring, her first year in the sport, and is the varsity goalie in field hockey. Wheeler played goalie in youth lacrosse before starting high school. The two will split goaltending duties to start the season.

The Cougars are in good shape through the rest of the lineup, including the return of All-State first-team selection Leslie Angus for her senior season. Angus is joined at midfield by returning starters Emilie Webster (junior) and Izabella Von Beren (senior).

Seniors Emma Sauerwein and Lara Stokes and sophomore Lexi Phyllides will anchor the defense. Senior Jackie DeAngelis, junior Brie Von Beren and junior Ally Wilson will serve as the Cougars’ top attacking line.

With so many returning players from last year’s championship team, Grimes hasn’t spent much time discussing their tournament run. The girls remember and know what it will take to get back there.

Grimes won’t make a prediction for this year, but the never-give-up attitude her team had in last spring’s tournament will carry over into the new season.

“We’ll never count ourselves out,” she said. “There were times during championship game where we were down maybe we thought we weren’t ready for this. Me and (assistant coach Pete Angus) both kept a positive attitude even if we thought things weren’t going the way we wanted them to. That’s important – not doubting the team until that last whistle is blown.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)