NHIAA Championship: Windham prevails in Div. III girls' lacrosse
MANCHESTER — The Windham High girls' lacrosse team put an exclamation point on its exit from the NHIAA Division III ranks, claiming its second consecutive state championship Thursday.
The second-seeded Jaguars rolled over No. 5 Lebanon 21-12 in the NHIAA Division III girls' lacrosse championship in front of a crowd of 463 at Southern New Hampshire University.
Windham finished the season 18-2, with the only losses coming at the hands of Division I champion Pinkerton Academy of Derry and Division II champion Portsmouth. The Jaguars will move up to Division II next season.
"It's almost surreal," Windham head coach Jill Bartlett said of repeating as state champions. "You go through it the first time and you're like 'hey, that's kind of cool.' The second time is unbelievable. The girls get better and better each year. We had a target on our back."
Windham broke the game open in the second half after leading 10-7 at intermission. The Jaguars scored three goals in the first 6:14 of the second half to push the advantage to 13-7. Lebanon got two of them back as Amelia Gage and Maureen Moran scored to make it 13-9.
But just as they had done all game, the Jaguars responded with a flurry of goals. That flurry was the biggest of the night, stretching to six goals before Lebanon could stop the bleeding.
"We just told the girls that the jitters are out and let's keep pulling forward and play our game," Bartlett said of the second half. "We made a few adjustments and took it from there."
Samantha Crichton, Courtney Sweeney, Jennifer Gaarder and Melissa Cino scored single tallies in the outburst and Alexandria Lewis netted a pair as Windham pushed the lead to 19-9. The 10-goal lead started running time on the clock but Moran scored for Lebanon to stop the Windham string.
The teams traded another two goals each to account for the 21-12 final score.
Lebanon (13-5) had knocked off No. 1 Kearsarge of North Sutton in the semifinals and put together a strong run to reach the final.
"I can't believe the season is over. I love these kids. This is a great group of kids," said Lebanon coach Sara Ecker. "I think the hardest part right now is that I don't have tomorrow. I don't have practice or a game to look forward to. These guys are a great group of kids and they worked hard. We had nine or 10 minutes in there where we just struggled. And they came out and took advantage of it."
Windham was led by Cino, who scored four goals and added seven assists.
"She is a phenomenal player. She's got a lacrosse IQ and field vision that is unbelievable," Bartlett said. "She's an awesome teammate and awesome captain and all-around fantastic kid."
Alexandra Connors (six goals, assist), Lewis (three goals, two assists) and Crichton (four goals, assist) added offensive punch for Windham. Goalie Victoria Cipollone made five saves. For Lebanon, Emily Perryman and Moran scored four goals each and Erika Moffitt added three. Goalie Erin Landry made eight saves.
The game was tied 3-3 after eight minutes of play, but a three-goal run from Windham over the next five minutes made it 6-3. Lebanon countered with two quick goals, but another three-goal outburst from the Jaguars pushed the lead to 9-5.
The Raiders scored twice to pull within two, but a Connors goal with 30 seconds remaining in the half made it 10-7 at intermission.