NHIAA D-I Girls' Soccer: Exeter, Bedford advance to final
Exeter's Abby Short has to get by Central's Samantha Somers during Wednesday's Division I semifinal at Stellos Stadium in Nashua. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Top-ranked Exeter High School and No. 3 Bedford High School posted NHIAA Division I Girls' Soccer Tournament semifinals wins Wednesday night and will meet Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Southern New Hampshire University in the title contest.
Exeter blanked Manchester Central, 4-0, while Bedford edged Londonderry High School, 4-3.
Exeter 4, Central 0: At Nashua, Exeter secured a fourth straight berth to a Division I title game, but had to fend off a pesky fourth-seeded Manchester Central squad (10-4-4) to accomplish feat.
Top-seeded and undefeated Exeter (18-0) dictated play for most of the first half, moving the ball from one side of the field, creating one quality shot after another. The Little Green defense held steady, for a while. Defender Colbie Cookson made two great tackles. Keeper Gabriella Desjardins made three brilliant saves.
But the three-time defending champs remained persistent. The Blue Hawks put 11 shots on net before netting a score. Elise Leavitt crossed the ball to an open Maggie Couett. Desjardins charged out from the net. Couett slipped adjusting her aim, booting the ball with one knee on the pitch in the 33rd minute of play.
One score led to another. Casey Scott found Allie Day open on the far post. Her blast carried a defender beyond the goal line attempting to prevent the score, making it 2-0 at 35:57.
The two-goal lead looked insurmountable. Lined across the width of the pitch, Exeter's Leavitt, Couett, Day, Scott and Casey Estey consistently moved the ball toward the Central's net, leaving scarce time to for Little Green team scoring chances.
Desjardins was busy all game, finishing with 17 saves. Estey angled a left-footed shot with a defender practically glued and buried a shot high into the net at 56:50. The sophomore striker struck again on a breakaway bid off a nice feed from Scott at 71:20. Both shots were impossible to save.
Central had some early chances. Exeter keeper Jessica Long saved bids from Nicole Rust, Victoria Vincent and Sarah Michaud.
The loss snapped Central's unbeaten streak at nine games. They finished the season going 7-0-2.
Bedford 4, Londonderry 3: Jessica Joseph didn't think it could get any better after she tied the game with four minutes left, then, a couple of minutes later, everything changed.
Joseph scored the winner with 32 seconds remaining in the game to give third-seeded Bedford a thrilling, come-from-behind, 4-3 win over No. 2 Londonderry in the Div. I semifinals at Bill Ball Stadium.
The senior forward tied the game with 4:08 left and then put it away in the final minute.
"I was just looking for a tie and we could beat them in overtime," Joseph said. "I had no idea another opportunity would happen for me."
Jessica Saltzman sent a cross from the right wing to Joseph at the six-yard box. Joseph chest trapped the ball and half-volleyed a shot by Londonderry goalie Merissa Brousseau (2 saves) for the winner.
"Amazing," Bedford coach Michelle Winning said. "They just didn't give up. That last goal was proof that if you don't give up good things happen to you."
Emily Crocetti scored all three goals for the Lancers (15-3), including one that gave them a 3-2 lead with 30:17 left in the game.