End of the line

PORTSMOUTH – The Souhegan High School girls lacrosse team spent the entire season taking every team’s best shot and coming out on top.

When the top-seeded Sabers continuously did that Saturday in the Division I semifinals against No. 4 Exeter, the Blue Hawks tried something else.

With Souhegan goalie Meaghan Allard stopping everything in sight, Exeter began mixing up its shots, and it led to a 12-9 comeback win in overtime for the Hawks at Portsmouth High School.

“It was our shot selection,” Exeter coach Courtney Preneta said. “Souhegan’s goalie (Allard) is talented and you have to respect a goalie that, if you’re going to shoot it at the same level, is going to save it. You have to have a better shot.

“We had opportunities where we just weren’t able to take advantage of the possession. Once we were able to adapt to that, it made the difference to get back into the game.”

Exeter erased a three-goal deficit with a 4-0 run in a three-minute span in the second half, going up 8-7 with 10:12 to play, and after Souhegan tied it twice in regulation, the Hawks scored all three goals in the overtime. Exeter will now face No. 3 Bishop Guertin in the championship game Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Portsmouth.

It’s the first title-game appearance for the Blue Hawks (16-4), while the Sabers (18-2) had been looking for their fourth trip to the final in a row.

“It’s a talented group of kids,” Souhegan coach Maren Petropulos said. “We’re as talented as any team out there and we’ve had some tough games this year and we stood up to every single team we played against. Some things didn’t go our way (Saturday).”

Kate Birmingham led Souhegan with three goals and Katherine Almeida had two goals and an assist while Emma Estabrook also scored twice.

But it was Allard who kept things from getting out of hand in the second half. The sophomore goalie finished the game with 19 saves, including several big ones as Exeter was trying to come back.

“She’s the best goalie in the state and I have no problem saying that,” Petropulos said. “They adjusted some things and we had issues with some of the clears.”

Allard’s biggest save came late in regulation, after the Sabers had tied the game 8-8 on a goal by Abigail Cranney. Exeter won the draw and got a free position, but Allard made the save and Souhegan got the ball back with 20 seconds left.

After a timeout, the Sabers raced down the field with the ball and ended up going to Brigid Casey (one goal). Her shot seemed to happen at the same time as the final buzzer and an official’s whistle, which would have given Casey an untimed opportunity.

Instead, the whistle was waved off and the game headed to overtime.

Jenna Henningsen (four goals, two assists) scored just 56 seconds into overtime for what proved to be the game-winner.

Kristina Keith added five goals for the Hawks and Ana Toomey had two goals and two assists.