Lady Lancer Stickers Make Final Four But Fall to PA

Coming into the 2015 fall sports season, Londonderry High School field hockey coach Laura Federico didn’t know if her team would be able to match up with the best competition Division I would offer.

But as things worked out, thanks to a tremendous amount of work, determination, and a superb goalie, the Lady Lancers ended up being one of the top four teams in that competitive class.

However, the LHS contingent’s championship hopes fell just two wins short of the big goal, with Federico’s force falling to Pinkerton by a 2-0 tally in the D-I semifinals late last week.

The seventh-seeded Londonderry High crew unexpectedly made it all the way into the Division I final four, tallying an upset win over the second-ranked Timberlane Regional Lady Owls in quarterfinal-round tournament play to push itself into the semifinal-round battle with third-ranked Pinkerton at Exeter High School Thursday, Oct. 29.

Londonderry had just about everything rolling smoothly going into that tourney battle with its arch-rival, having posted a great 5-0-1 record in its previous six games despite managing only one goal in every single one of those matches.

And the Lady Lancers had beaten Pinkerton in overtime in their lone previous 2015 meeting with the Lady Astros in Mack Plaque play earlier this autumn, so the LHS bunch had every reason to believe it could advance to the finals if it could come up with another strong performance against Pinkerton.

But Londonderry wasn’t able to come up with the effort it required against PA, sticking with the rival in the first half – thanks in large part to exceptional play from junior goalie Rachel Simkevich – before the Lady Astros potted the goals they’d require to win during an utterly dominant second half.

“Like I told my girls at the end of the game, in August I was worried about even making the playoffs. So to be in the final four was truly remarkable and demonstrates what hard work and determination can do. I’m proud of them,” said Federico in the wake of the semifinal loss.

During the scoreless first half of play, Pinkerton tallied seven penalty corners and put six solid shots – all of them from close range – on LHS keeper Simkevich. The Lady Lancers’ keeper turned every one of them away, and her teammates put pressure on the PA net during the final three minutes of the half but couldn’t come up with a goal. They went to halftime with five shots on Pinkerton goalie Abbey Doherty along with four penalty corners, all of which came in the last 2:49.

“Rachel was superb, and she has been all season,” said Federico of her keeper’s performance in the opening half.

The resounding question going into the second half was, “Which team wants this big win more?” And the answer ended up being Pinkerton.

The Lady Astros dominated play, smacking 13 shots on Simkevich while PA keeper Doherty could have used a rocking chair and a magazine at the other end of the field. She faced no shots during those 30 minutes, and the academy crew enjoyed an 8-1 advantage in penalty corners as well.

Pinkerton netted what proved to be the winning goal with 13:04 left in the match, and added an insurance goal with 3:20 showing on the game clock.

“In the second half we broke down a little and they took control,” said Federico. “We had a few opportunities but could not capitalize on them.”

But having her team surprisingly go as far as it did this season, the LHS leader had plenty of reasons to look forward with optimism and excitement.

“It’s never easy to end a season, and our three seniors, Hannah McGrath, Hailey Gilbert, and Hannah Cohen, will be missed. They were great leaders on the team this year, and they helped set the tone for what lies ahead next year,” she said.

But only losing three players from a final-four team bodes well for LHS.