Londonderry's Thompson is girls' lacrosse Player of Year
Londonderry High spent the girls' lacrosse season facing enormous pressure to maintain one of the nation's longest win streaks, all while staying focused on a Division I three-peat.
The team relied heavily on juniors. One of them transformed from draw-control specialist into the state's premier full-field force.
Midfielder Jenny Thompson - the prospect several Division I college coaches hope to land - is the headliner on the 12-girl New Hampshire Union Leader All-State team as Player of the Year. Maureen Wentzell, who guided fourth-year Plymouth Regional to its first Division III championship, is Coach of the Year.
New Hampshire's only U.S. Lacrosse high school All-American this spring, Thompson is the second straight Lancer to win the statewide newspaper's top honor. She's also the first underclassman to earn the award in the six years since the inaugural All-State team debuted.
'When you hear someone won Player of the Year, that's a big deal. Marcie (Marino) got it last year. I saw it in the newspaper. Her picture was right in the middle,' Thompson said. 'It's just such an honor.'
Wentzell - whose 140 career points as an attacker for Plymouth State University (Class of 1976) at one time topped the list - echoed the sentiment.
In its brief history as a varsity team, Plymouth (15-2 Div. III) hadn't won more than six games in a season, let alone a tournament tilt.
'We managed the last two years to get into the playoffs, but we got bumped in the first round,' said Wentzell, lauding assistant coach Tom Cowie, and seniors Nika Mosenthal, Rachel Schwaner, Maryanna Swanson, Lucy Tomkiewicz and Liz Gailey. 'We said, 'Let's get into the semifinals, let's see our name in the semis. Anything after that is just wonderful.'' Wentzell's club, the No. 1 seed, scored 51 goals in three tourney wins.
High expectations were new to Plymouth. Thompson, however, was familiar with them.
Teams targeted the junior's every move. She was a magnet for double teams. She saw triple teams, too.
'I can honestly say I like playing under pressure. When people target me, when they're watching me, that makes me play better. It's not going to make me back down,' said Thompson, who posted a team-high 70 goals and shared the top honor in points (80).
Terrific in transition, Thompson was most dangerous in 7-on-7 situations. Patience, unselfishness and a potent pivot move led to countless scoring chances for the 16-year-old and her teammates.
'Good stick skills. Good nose for the cage. Good finisher,' Bryon Murphy, coach at Derry's Pinkerton Academy, said of Thompson. 'She was the go-to girl for (Lancers coach Bob Slater). When he wanted things done, Jenny got it started.'
The analysis of Thompson's defense: 'Her stick positions, the way she gets in front (of opposing players) and drives them away from the cage … makes her outstanding,' said Slater, whose Lancers had their 51-game win streak snapped by Andover, Mass., just before the playoffs.
Winning draws, however, is where Thompson has flourished since her freshman year.
In the circle, Thompson positioned her 5-foot 10-inch frame in one of three stances to gain an edge. It worked. She won draws at an astounding 73-percent clip.
Londonderry won its 16 league games. The team finished 18-1 overall. It takes a 53-game in-state win streak into next season, when Thompson and her teammates attempt to win an unprecedented fourth straight league title.
'Everyone will be expecting a lot out of me, 100 percent. I will give 110 percent,' Thompson said. 'I'll be even more fired up going in to next season. I'm already excited for it now. There will be pressure. But I can handle it.'