By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Thank goodness for dogs. Because Wednesday afternoon didn’t end well otherwise for the Lebanon High girls lacrosse team.
The Raiders surrendered the final three goals of their game with visiting ConVal and lost, 10-9, in overtime. Disheartened by the result and how it occurred, Lebanon coach Sara Ecker knelt on the sideline to welcome the wiggly presence of Zoey, a smallish mutt who is one of her family’s three canine companions.
“I don’t want to talk about the game,” Ecker said half in jest. “I just want to sit here and complain.”
Behind her, Raiders midfielder Ella Longacre stopped and bent down to offer Zoey a hand in greeting. The pooch reciprocated with several tentative licks and Longacre smiled as she departed.
Ecker could be forgiven her mood. Her NHIAA Division III team went up, 9-7, with 17 minutes to play in the second half and still clung to a 9-8 advantage when one of its defenders was whistled for a foul with 25 seconds remaining on the clock in the physical contest.
ConVal, a Division II program, converted a subsequent, free-position shot for a 9-9 tie. However, a Cougar was sent off with a yellow card for dissent before the ensuing faceoff.
Lebanon generated a final shot and visiting goaltender Sarah Holdredge snagged it a second or two before regulation time expired. In doing so, however, she high-sticked Lebanon attacker Kayla Taber in the face, earning a yellow card of her own. Ecker protested the foul should result in a free-possession shot for the hosts, but to no avail.
The Raiders were now up two players but lost the faceoff to begin overtime. They allowed ConVal’s Anna Taylor to find an open Julia Donovan in the center of the field and 12 yards from goal. The Cougar cut right and beat goaltender Lena Nowell for the winning score.
Lebanon’s Molly Smith had a hat trick and Catherine Cole had two goals. Taber had a goal and two assists and Longacre, Sydney Gonyea, and Cassidy Adams also tallied.
“I am so frustrated,” Ecker said after the game, her unhappiness with the officiating evident. “Their goalie is excellent, so we needed every offensive chance because she was keeping them in the game. She stopped 14 of 16 shots in the second half, so to have chances taken away really hurt.”
Lebanon (6-3) surrendered the afternoon’s first two goals before scoring four in a row. The Raiders’ second and third tallies came with ConVal a player short because of a yellow card. The hosts were up, 7-5, at intermission before allowing the second half’s opening goal, then moved ahead, 8-6, with 23 minutes remaining in the stanza.
Ecker pushed her troops to extend offensive possessions so as to eat up time, but the Raiders couldn’t execute the plan quite well enough. At one point, Holdredge was down and her net wide open, but a Lebanon shot from a sharp angle couldn’t find the twine.
Turnovers cost the Raiders in the long run, allowing ConVal (4-2) additional cracks at Nowell’s cage.
“I wish we’d been more patient,” Ecker said. “We were still trying to go to goal and weren’t taking as good care of the ball as we could have.
“Let’s work it around and get a good shot, because we’re facing a good goalie. You’ve got to move her and you’re not going to do that by going one-on-one to goal.”
ConVal tightened its defense after a first half in which the Raiders controlled play in the Cougars’ end. Midfielders Smith and Longacre and forwards Cole and Gonyea drove hard to goal and Taber had a pair of nifty assists.
That attacking mindset calls to mind the damn-the-torpedoes style of former Lebanon star Emily Perryman, a junior the last time the Raiders reached the state finals in 2013. The nice part is that opponents can’t focus on one player, as they usually did on Perryman.
“Our stats are all spread out among six or seven scorers and that makes us much more dangerous,” Ecker said. “It’s nice to have some more offensive power this year than we have in a long time.”
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