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Div. II Field Hockey Tournament: Cranney leads Souhegan past Portsmouth

Special to the Union Leader

October 21. 2017 1:35AM

AMHERST — For the second straight season, the Souhegan field hockey team will compete in Division II final four. A 3-1 win over Portsmouth on Friday ensured that.

The difference this year, is expectations.

As the top seed, the Sabers (13-1) are the favorites in every round. Souhegan, which lost to Windham in the 2016 semifinals, face a new challenge against Hanover, a team they haven’t faced, in the semifinals on Tuesday at Exeter High.

“This is our first year on top,” said senior Abby Cranney, who scored twice. “Usually we’re the underdogs, facing top teams. I think this year, staying composed not letting anything get to our heads is what’s worked for us.”

Cranney scored the first two goals of the game for the home team, upping her season total to 22 tallies. She scored just 57 seconds into the game to set the pace.

“I would have liked for it to have settled us a little bit more,” said Sabers coach Kelli Braley. “Scoring quickly was a bonus. Typically with my team, what happens is once we get one, the floodgates kind of open.”

It was 17 minutes later that she doubled the lead. McKenzie Robinson scored the third Souhegan goal two minutes into the second half to extend the lead to 3-0.

The ninth-seeded Clippers (7-6-1) didn’t go down without a fight. With 7:47 remaining, Portsmouth’s Ellie Hunkins scored, and the visitors pushed the pace down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough.

Clippers goalie Kayleigh Vogel made eight saves and kept her team in it against a Souhegan attack that has totaled 76 goals this season.

“The difference of playing to win and playing to survive, which is what it’s like in the playoffs, is really intense,” said Braley. “Portsmouth, to their credit, did not quit, and the second half made it a lot more difficult.”

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