NHIAA D-II Girls' Soccer Championship: Sabers back on top
MANCHESTER - Souhegan of Amherst claimed its second NHIAA girls' Division II soccer championship in three years with a 2-0 win over Pembroke Academy at Southern New Hampshire University Saturday night.
The third-ranked Sabers (16-3-1) were the runners-up in 2012 and state champs in 2011. This season's championship closes the book on seven key seniors for Souhegan.
"We've been here before. It feels great. We have a group of seniors that came in here and turned our program around four years ago," said Souhegan coach Dwayne Andreasen. "They won it twice and we lost last year. Those kids deserve. They did it. They're the catalyst."
It was one of those seniors, midfielder Peyton Kent, who figured in both Souhegan goals.
In the fifth minute, Kent sent a corner kick toward the net and the ball bounced around, eventually knocking off the back of a Pembroke player and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"An early goal never hurts. It puts momentum in our favor and maybe burst the bubble for them and maybe put that little seed of doubt in their minds," Andreasen said. "We kept putting it at them all game. Our girls executed the game plan that we wanted them to. I'm very proud of them."
Kent gave the Sabers some insurance with 5:25 remaining when she lobbed an arcing shot off a direct kick from the left side over the reach of Pembroke goalkeeper Kristin Kezar. Souhegan clamped down on defense from there and secured the win and shutout for senior keeper Mikaela Sullivan.
For ninth-ranked Pembroke (13-7-0), it was a disappointing end to what had been a strong run through the playoffs that saw the Spartans defeat No. 8 Merrimack Valley of Penacook, No. 1 Portsmouth and No. 5 Coe Brown of Northwood.
"We did not bring our best game tonight and I think that's why you see some tears on the sidelines. The girls know what we've been doing for the last week and a half," said Pembroke coach Jessica Croft. "It's been magical and amazing and surpassing everyone's expectations. I think our luck ran out a little bit."
Because of the playoff run and tight regular season meeting, Souhegan knew the challenge would be there.
"It was not a gimme game. We played Pembroke earlier in the year to an overtime win and they've obviously been on a roll," Andreasen said. "I have a lot of respect for that program for what they've done."