Sabers make it a dozen

MANCHESTER – If the opinion of anyone in Amherst or Mont Vernon mattered, the Souhegan High School girls soccer team already had Saturday’s Division II championship won.

But no matter what the third-seeded Sabers’ friends and fans said, the players and coaches knew they had to go out and beat No. 9 Pembroke Academy on the field.

Souhegan scored early, clamped down on the Spartans’ offense and added an insurance goal late to defeat Pembroke 2-0.

The Sabers celebrated their second championship in three years – and 12th overall – on Southern New Hampshire University’s Larkin Field, and this time, no one got hurt.

Peyton Kent scored both goals for the Sabers (16-3-1), the second time the senior scored the game-winner in a championship. In 2011, Kent gave Souhegan its first title since 2003 with an overtime goal, and suffered a broken arm at the bottom of the celebratory pile.

This time, Kent had tears of joy and was looking forward to the postgame party.

“I didn’t get to go on the bus home,” she said. “I went to the hospital, so I didn’t get to do the fire truck parade. I missed that. I am so glad I get to experience it again with the team.”

Sabers goalie Mikaela Sullivan was credited with just one save, but combined with the Souhegan defense to thwart any Pembroke opportunity. The best chance for the Spartans (13-7) came in the opening minute, perhaps catching Souhegan by surprise.

“I think our girls executed the game plan we wanted them to – play strong, play fast,” Souhegan coach Dwayne Andreasen said. “They had a quick counterattack, and I had some concern because we were trying to go forward so quickly.

“They had a couple of opportunities. They countered quickly, so we were cautious of that. We moved players around to take care of their speed, and I think those worked in our favor.”

It didn’t hurt that Souhegan played with the lead for better than 76 minutes. Kent’s corner kick went in off a Pembroke player just 3:30 into the game.

“An early goal never hurts,” Andreasen said. “It puts the momentum in our favor, and maybe it burst their bubble and put a seed of doubt in their minds.”

From there, Souhegan relied on its experience – this was the Sabers’ 15th playoff game in the last four years – as much as its skill.

“I think our experience made a ton of difference,” Andreasen said. “Even in a one-goal game, I don’t think they ever worried. We’ve heard it all this week, that we should walk away with it. They came out here and played their game and didn’t worry about what anybody said.”

Kent struck again with 5:25 left, sending a free kick over goalie Kristin Kezar (four saves).

“I couldn’t have been any happier with that game and how we ended it,” Kent said. “You always want to end on a good note. Thank God we did.”