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May 17. 2013 1:48AM

Kevin Gray's H.S. Lacrosse: It's not easy facing West


West High goalie Talia Cote keeps an eye on Derryfield's Jimmy O'Brien during a recent game. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Manchester West lacrosse goalie Talia Cote made eight saves on Tuesday as the boys' team defeated Monadnock of Swanzey, 15-4, in Division III. For the record, this is a story about Cote the Goaltender, not the Girl.

Since the Blue Knights do not offer girls' lacrosse, Cote, a freshman, joined the boys' team and became one of the top goalies in the division.

Entering the season, there was no discussion whether Cote could handle the aggressive nature of boys' lacrosse as a freshman. She simply attended tryouts and was the best candidate for the position.

"We've had girls on our ice hockey team. Last year, we had a girl (Sabrina Therrien) on the lacrosse team. It's what we're used to here," Sarah Dumais, Manchester West's director of athletics, said. "If they make the team, that's great. They go to tryouts like everyone else and their skills speak for themselves."

Protecting the cage was a natural transition for Cote, of Hooksett, who served as defenseman for the boys' ice hockey team and was named hockey MVP at the school's winter awards banquet. Now the West lacrosse team, in its ninth season, has never had a female player make such an impact — and that includes making big hits in front of the net.

"She comes out of the net and is not afraid to light somebody up. I think she does it extra just to prove her point," coach Chris Beede said.

In Tuesday's 15-4 victory against Monadnock of Swanzey, Cote made eight saves and stopped some close-range shots with proper positioning and bold instincts. She often steps toward the ball, cutting down angles and frustrating the shooter. Once making the save, her work is only half done. Cote is an excellent passer.

"She never makes a turnover. Her passing is better than any goalie I've seen at this level. She's accurate. You can make all the saves in the world, but you still need to get rid of the ball," said the 29-year-old Beede, who played lacrosse at Brooks School of North Andover, Mass., and Denison University in Ohio.

Beede has done a fine job creating a team-first culture at West. Seniors had not won a lacrosse game for the Blue Knights until this season. Captains Ryan Askham, Zach Ziemba, Jared Camire and Tyler Halstead deserve the credit, said the coach. Fellow seniors Tyler Crain, Alistair Tenters, LeShon Brown and Chris Calhoun have been part of the ups and downs. Junior Edgar Hernandez, who played goalie last season, happily moved to defense this spring.

"They are the easiest kids to coach I've ever met," Beede said.

Askham had five goals and five assists against Monadnock, reaching 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) for the season. Ziemba ranks second on the team with 42 points, followed by Camire (34), Child (19) and Joe Clement (19).

Cote has made 127 saves this season. West plays at Pelham (8-3) today. Keep an eye on the freshman goalie with poise and serious skills. "People watching the game have said, 'That goalie has a pony tail.' My wife is like, 'She's a girl.' Other teams don't realize she's a girl until she takes her helmet off," Beede said.

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GAME DAY: Souhegan of Amherst girls (11-1) at Londonderry (10-4) . Both teams are riding a seven-game winning streak and looking to secure a top-three finish in Division I. The Lancers won't face another team with a winning record until the postseason. Souhegan wraps up the regular season against Pinkerton of Derry (12-3) next week.

kgray@unionleader.com


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