Defense carries Laconia boys lacrosse team to Division III state title

·3 min read

Jun. 13—EXETER — With his team holding a one-goal lead inside the final two minutes of the NHIAA Division III boys lacrosse championship game Sunday, Laconia coach Steve McDonough turned to his defense again.

The Sachems' defense responded, forcing two late turnovers and helping set up the title-clinching goal to give Laconia a 12-10 victory over Hopkinton at Bill Ball Stadium.

Fourth-seeded Laconia finished 14-3 and allowed six or fewer goals in 11 games. The Division III title is the Sachems' fifth overall, first since 2016 and first under McDonough, who was an assistant coach for the 2016 team.

The second-seeded Hawks, who defeated Laconia, 8-5, in the regular season, finished 14-3.

When Hopkinton took a timeout with 1:55 remaining, McDonough said he mostly spoke to his defense.

"Really just, 'Hey defense, we've relied on you all year. If we're going to win a championship, it's you again,'" McDonough said of his message during the timeout. "Our defense has been phenomenal. ... It was, 'Hey, if we're going to win a championship, you guys are going to have to make some plays and do that for us,' and they did that."

Laconia forced the Hawks to turn the ball over twice following that timeout. After the Sachems caused the second turnover with about one minute left, senior goalkeeper Cam Harriman (12 saves) cleared the ball upfield towards classmate Evan Rollins. Rollins then scooped up a ground ball and capped the game's scoring with 45.9 seconds left.

"It was a tough battle," Sachems senior captain and defenseman Edgar Conroy said. "We had to keep our composure and I think that was a big thing that we did."

Laconia scored the game's first two goals and led, 3-2, after the opening quarter. Hopkinton senior Quinn Whitehead's goal knotted the score 57 seconds into the second frame. The Sachems then went on a 5-0 run to end the first half to take an 8-3 lead into halftime.

"We put them on their heels, I think, winning faceoffs, fastbreaks, transition goals," Laconia senior captain and midfielder Tim Ausevich said of his team's second-quarter run. "I don't think they were ready for that because when we played them earlier in the season, we weren't really getting into transition that well. We came out, punched them this time and put them on their heels with the transition, I think."

The Hawks opened the third quarter on a 5-1 run powered by Whitehead (four goals) and senior attackman Ryan Brown (three goals). Whitehead scored twice and Brown notched two goals and an assist during the run.

"They've just got a nose for the goal," Hopkinton coach Deacon Blue said of Brown and Whitehead. "They kind of became a one-two punch up there on attack towards the end of the season and were finding each other well. That was part of the first half. We weren't getting any possessions and if those guys can't get the ball, we can't score. Simple as that."

Battling against Hopkinton seniors Connor Tewksbury and Ethan Molnar, Ausevich won the first-half faceoff battle, 9-5, and 14-10 overall.

Senior Cole Roy logged four goals and freshman Connor Tucker had a hat trick for the Sachems. Laconia also received two goals each from Rollins and Evan Carignan and one from Lucas Bean.

Hopkinton senior Aidan Burns' only goal cut Laconia's lead to 11-10 with 2:53 left. The Hawks also received a goal each from Patrick Buss and Josh Duval. Hopkinton senior goalie Eli Standefer made 11 saves.

ahall@unionleader.com