Laconia girls take Div. III lacrosse with tight game
Laconia’s strong junior class played a significant role in the Sachems’ title defense. From left, Teegan Stevens, Abigail Crowell, Lyndsey Paronto, Helen Tautkus and Cheyanne Zappala celebrate the championship while freshman Hannah Dow, far right, crashes the junior party. It was Laconia High School girls lacrosse team’s second championship in as many years. (Ryan O’Connor/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
By Ryan O'Connor
SPECIAL TO THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
BEDFORD — The two contests couldn't have differed more, but the end result proved the same.
Following a 14-3 trouncing of rival Kearsarge Regional High School on May 6, the top-seeded Laconia High School girls lacrosse team met the Cougars once again in the Division III championship game Wednesday night.
Unlike that first matchup, however, Kearsarge gave the Sachems all they could handle, pushing the defending state champs right to the last minute before Laconia senior Mackenzie Howe notched the game winner with 5.2 seconds remaining in the contest to boost her team to a successful title defense, 14-13.
"During our first game, we really came out flat and weren't able to get it together, "said Kearsarge head coach Hilary Grimes. "I think we really came out today, right from the start, on fire and ready to go, and that made a huge difference."
Grimes' counterpart wasn't surprised.
"I know Kearsarge, and Kearsarge is a great team ... so, yeah, I did expect it to be a barnburner," said Laconia head coach Kerri Howe. "And you know, you've also got the nerves and emotions and all that, and I've been saying this, it's always hard to be the team on top. That younger team is always a little hungrier than you, and I think you saw that at the beginning of the game, and then we kind of turned it around and came through."
In fact, after the Sachems took a 5-3 lead just over 11 minutes into the first half – thanks to four goals from junior standout Helen Tautkus – Laconia gave up four consecutive goals to head into halftime down by two.
The second half began much the way the first half ended, with Laconia falling behind, 6-9, in the opening six minutes. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Kearsarge extended it's lead, 11-7, and that's when Laconia hit the gas, scoring five of the next six goals – including three markers by Mackenzie Howe in about two minutes – to notch the game at 12 with just under six minutes on the clock.
"That's what great about my team. I know I can be down by four and come back," said the elder Howe. "We have speed. We can work that ball quickly, and once they started figuring out the best angle to go on the goalie and started taking the shots where they should have been taken ... it was easy for them."
Eleanor Angus put the underdogs ahead at the 1:20 mark before Tautkus scored her eighth goal of the game 18 seconds later to once again knot the score.
Howe's winning goal wasn't pretty by anyone's definition. In fact, the ball was deflected on a desperation check, but still rolled its way into the net to lock up the victory.
Said Mackenzie Howe of the game winner: "We thought Helen was going to take it in, and then she didn't, so then she crossed it to me, and I was like, 'OK, well, this is it. I don't even know what was going on through my head, I just knew I had to score, and it worked out.
"It's so amazing," she continued. "I think we've all dreamed of this since we were freshman. And I just can't believe we did it. I'm so proud of my team. This is awesome."
In addition to the eight goals from Tautkus and the four tallies from Howe, seniors Hailey Martel and Gabrielle Smith also found the back of the net, while junior goalie Lyndsey Paronto made several pivotal saves late to secure the Sachems' second-consecutive banner.
Laconia junior Helen Tautkus notched the Sachems’ first four goals in Wednesday’s Division III championship game against Kearsarge. (Ryan O’Connor/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Seniors Meya Minor, Mackenzie Howe and Gabrielle Smith were joined by junior netminder Lyndsey Paronto, far right, as the first to hoist the Laconia High School girls lacrosse team’s championship plaque, their second in as many years. (Ryan O’Connor/for The Laconia Daily Sun)