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June 04. 2013 9:30PM

Defense sparks Portsmouth Clippers to Div. II girls' lacrosse state crown

Portsmouth players celebrate their victory over Hanover during the NHIAA Division II girls lacrosse finals at Southern New Hampshire University on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — A stifling defensive effort and ball-moving offense paved the way for Portsmouth to claim the NHIAA Division II girls’ lacrosse championship.

The second-ranked Clippers defeated No. 1 Hanover by a 14-8 score in the championship game in front of a crowd of 396 at Southern New Hampshire University Tuesday night. The title is the second in three years for Portsmouth (19-2).

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had,” said Portsmouth senior Emily Whitney, who scored four goals and added three assists. “We worked so hard for this. It really was a team effort.”

Right from the start, it was clear that the Portsmouth game plan was to limit the high-powered Hanover (17-2) offense’s looks at the net.

“That was about a veteran coach out-coaching a rookie coach,” said Hanover first-year coach Chris Seibel. “(Portsmouth coach Mary Squire) had her girls in a defensive set playing all-out. That’s just one of the best coaches that you’ll see at the high school level.”

The game was tied 1-1 early, but the Clippers went on an 8-1 run to build a 9-2 lead thanks to quick-strike scoring and zone defense that Seibel said confused his team. Making things tougher, senior goalie Ashley Linane was strong in net, making 11 saves and denying many of the best Hanover scoring threats.

“For some reason, we were a little shocked at what was thrown at us. We had to call a couple timeouts early, which you never want to do,” Seibel said. “We drew up a play and then our shooting, the goalie made saves, but I would say in both games (against Portsmouth) our shooting was sub-par. That’s to their credit.”

Squire said the defensive stance had to be a priority.

“We knew that they had a really powerful offense and they move the ball well and attack in pairs. We had to be able to come up with a defensive plan for that and I think we did really well,” Squire said. “In the first and second half, we just gave them some different looks and I think that was the key, limiting their lanes to the cage.”

Portsmouth led 9-3 at halftime and was able to withstand the counter-punch from Hanover in the second half. The Marauders got within five goals at 10-5 and again at 12-7, but each time Portsmouth was able to control the clock with precision passing and timely goals that kept the Clippers out of reach.

“It was crucial for us (to stay focused on defending) because they’re a powerful offense and they can come back at any time,” Squire said. “They wanted it just as bad as we did. I think offensively, we just found each other and moved the ball well.”

Portsmouth senior Devon Parker scored a game-high six goals, classmate Emily Eaton scored a goal and assist and sophomores Lizzy Rice (goal), Charley Prevost (goal, assist) and Julie McNabb (goal) rounded out the Clipper scoring.

Hanover was led by sophomore J.J Daniell (two goals, three assists), classmate Christine Croitoru (two goals) and senior Sarah Gallimore (two goals).

The Marauders lost two games all season, both to Portsmouth.

“There’s no shame in that,” Seibel said. “That’s just a very good, well-coached team.”

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