NASHUA — “Wait until next year!”
That was the refrain for the junior-dominated Londonderry girls soccer team after Sunday’s 5-0 Division 1 state title loss to defending champion Manchester Central.
But the Lancers could have probably been saying the same thing following the first three minutes of the game after Manchester Central’s tremendous one-two striker combination gave the Little Green a quick 2-0 lead, forcing No. 1 seed Londonderry to play catch-up the rest of the game.
First, after just 50 seconds, super sophomore Erin Fleury got loose on a breakaway and scored the game’s first goal. Then two minutes later, senior star Paige LeBerge got loose on another breakaway, got fouled and then connected on a penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.
That was the 25th goal of the season for Fleury and the 20th for LeBerge, who is headed on scholarship to Florida State next year. Both standouts added a goal in the second half.
“We wanted to widen the field and use our speed, which we were able to do,” said 35-year Manchester Central coach Peter Lally. “We also wanted to be aggressive from the start.
“We’re able to play that way because of those two (Fleury and LeBerge). As a tandem, they’re the best I’ve ever had.”
To its credit, Londonderry regrouped after the shockingly fast deficit and held possession for much of the rest of the first half. But Central circled back effectively and did not give up any good shots on goal.
“The last 25 minutes I felt we were the better team,” said Londonderry coach Derek Dane. “But we made mistakes early and never recovered.”
Perhaps recognizing a slight letup after its early goals, Manchester Central stepped up its play in the second half and gave the Lancers few opportunities to get back in what turned into quite a physical game.
Gabrielle Paradis gave the Little Green a 3-0 lead 12 minutes into the second half on an improbable corner kick and LeBerge and Fleury got their second goals in the final 12 minutes to account for the final score.
“We had to change the way we played and take some chances,” said Dane. “It didn’t matter if it was 2-0 or 5-0.”
Those five goals were one third of the total given up for the entire season for Londonderry, which outscored its opponents 82-15.
Among those playing well in defeat for the Lancers were senior midfielder Samantha LeClair and junior forward Olivia Stowell. LeClair is one of only two senior starters and Stowell is one of 12 juniors and finished the season with 19 goals, the same number as classmate Alyssa Anderson.
Junior Darby Dupuis and freshman Ashley Manor both had nine goals.
“I’m thrilled with our season and, with so many kids back, we’re going to be very good next year,” said Dane. “We’ve already talked about next year.”
Manchester Central 5, Londonderry 0
Division 1 State Final
Goals: Erin Fleury 2, Paige LeBerge 2, Gabrielle Paradis
Saves: L — Jasmine Richard 9; MC — Jessica Lewis 5
Manchester Central (17-2): 2 3 — 5
Londonderry (16-2-1): 0 0 — 0