MANCHESTER, NH – Some say revenge is a dish best served cold.
Tuesday night, revenge proved a dish best served both cold, and wet, for the Derryfield School girls varsity lacrosse team.
You see, after 24 months of denied gratification due to a lost 2020 season, the Cougars were forced to wait yet another hour before celebrating due to a lightning delay with 4 minutes remaining in the Division-III championship game at Laconia High School’s Bank of New Hampshire Stadium.
But celebrate they did.
Competing against rival Hopinton, the same team that edged them in the 2019 Division-III championship game, the Cougars flipped 2019’s 12-11 score to take this year’s crown in the pouring rain.
“I think we were all excited to see this matchup,” said Derryfield senior captain Lucy Licata, who led the team on and off the field, while dominating faceoffs most of the season.
“As much as we were nervous about how good a team (Hopkinton) was, we used it as a good little redemption run for us,” she said. “I think it was an awesome matchup to have, especially after losing (in 2019) and then losing last season as a whole (due to COVID-19).”
After a back-and-forth opening 25 minutes of the game, Derryfield came out strong in the first 6 minutes of the second half, extending an 8-6 halftime advantage to 10-6 with 19 minutes remaining in the contest.
That’s when Hopkinton head coach Mike Zahn called a time out. Whatever he said appeared to have a significant impact as the Hawks came flying back, outscoring the Cougars 4-1 over the next nine minutes to draw within one with 10:24 left in the contest. A defensive battle commenced for the next six minutes until a flash in the distance prompted a whistle. Two more lightning bolts in the minutes to follow caused further delay as both teams ran for shelter and parents and fellow students retreated to their cars.
Once the conditions were deemed safe again, Hopkinton struck almost right away, scoring the equalizing goal about 30 seconds into the return to action.
Derryfield was not to be denied on this night, however.
“We had four minutes, and four minutes is plenty of time,” said longtime Derryfield head coach Mellissa Catenza. “From draw circle to goal only takes 12 seconds, so we knew we had time and we just needed to stay composed and play our game.”
Taking possession and then battling through a hard-press by Hopkinton, the Cougars offense did just that, methodically worked the ball around the field until a seam opened up. Freshman Lillian Handwerk found and attacked the opening, charging deep into Hawks’ territory before dishing the ball to junior Casey Benson who did what she does best: found an open teammate.
In this case it was sophomore Abbey Carr who received the ball about 20 feet in front of the net, worked it in and fired a one-timer that found its destination, putting Derryfield back in front for good.
The Cougars were able to gain control on the ensuing draw and successfully played keep-away for the last 90 seconds before celebrating together at midfield after the final buzzer.
“We’ve been working all year for this. This was our mission, to come back and here we are,” said Catenza. “And I only have really about 5 (true) lacrosse players, the rest are just great athletes … they just worked so hard this season and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The triumph was especially sweet for senior co-captain and goalie Shawna Lesmerises, who said she was heartbroken after letting the 2019 game-winner get past her.
And while she was surprised when the Hawks’ equalizer found the back of the net coming right out of the lighting delay, especially because she was able to get a piece of the ball, Lesmerises said she had every confidence her teammates would help her avoid a repeat of 2019.
“I knew the girls in the circle were going to get it back and push it to get that goal that was really necessary and Abbey did it,” she said. “Going from the last two years, especially missing this last season, we were coming into (the playoffs) super fired up and ready to go. And coming into this game, with a rematch of the 2019 championship was something totally insane, and then to have the exact same score but with us with that one-goal lead was something that really hit home.”
Licata paced the team throughout the game, scoring 6 goals to compliment her quick stick in the faceoff circle. Carr’s game-winner was her fourth tally, and Benson added two goals along with several assists. Lesmerises finished the contest with a double-digit save total.