GILFORD — The Golden Eagles' dreams of repeating 2015, when both the boys’ soccer team and girls volleyball teams won state titles on the same day, went up in smoke Wednesday.
The third-ranked soccer team (15-4) lost to second-ranked Hopkinton (17-2) 2-1 in overtime in a Division III semifinal game played in Laconia and the top-ranked volleyball team (15-3) lost 3-1 to fifth-ranked Portsmouth (15-4) in a Division II match played at Pinkerton Academy.
The Hopkinton and Gilford soccer game was a clash of one of the league’s top scoring offenses against the toughest defense.
The Eagles came out for the second half with a 1-0 lead and leaned on their defense that allowed only eight goals all season entering the semifinals. Offense prevailed in the end, but it nearly took all 80 minutes of regulation for Hopkinton to tie the game and then defeat Gilford in overtime.
Azarius Meister scored to force overtime in the 78th minute and Paul Molnar notched the game-winning goal seven minutes later for the win.
The Golden Eagles came out firing five shots on goal in the first half. Tyler Hanf received a touch pass from Patrick O’Connor directly in front of the net and drilled it in to give Gilford a 1-0 lead.
Gilford defended that lead for almost the entire second half. Looking back, Gilford Coach Dave Pinkham said there were enough opportunities that his team should have had a greater advantage going into halftime.
In the volleyball game, the top-ranked Eagles (15-3) raced out to an early lead by taking the first game, 25-13. But after that No. 5 Portsmouth (15-4) went to its two middle hitters, Natalie Gravelle and Corinne Lamond, and won three straight – 25-23, 25-11, 25-16 – to earn a spot in Saturday’s D-II final against No. 3 Windham.
Gilford senior Brooke Beaudet got her team started on the right foot as she served for 14 straight points in the first game, a stretch that included three aces. She also got plenty of help from junior Maggie McNeil, who had five of her 11 kills in the first game.
“We looked like a finely-oiled machine,” Gilford Coach Joan Forge said, “and everything was going our way.”
When these two met in the regular season, a 3-1 Gilford win on Oct. 16, the Clippers found some offensive success with their tip game. They were trying the same thing on Wednesday during the first game, but the Eagles had prepared for the tips and were shutting them down.
Gilford had also practiced for the big hits from Gravelle and Lamond, but that preparation didn’t work as well as the tip prep. Lamond went 21-for-22 on kills in the second game as Portsmouth completely seized momentum and evened the match with the tight, two-point win.
From that point on the momentum switched to the Clippers, who dominated the final two sets.