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The Bedford girls soccer team poses with its state champion runner-up trophy after a 5-1 loss to undefeated Exeter. (Dan Moberger Photo)

Bedford girls soccer falls to perfect Exeter

BEDFORD - The Bedford High School girls soccer team made its way to the state finals in the first year competing at Division I, but could not stop undefeated Exeter on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Bulldogs fell 5-1 under the lights at Southern New Hampshire University.

Exeter proved unstoppable throughout the entire fall campaign, going 16-0 in the regular season. They paraded though the playoffs without surrendering a goal before meeting Bedford in the finals.

'They're just a great team,' head coach Michelle Winning said. 'They move the ball very well, they spread the field very well, they execute passes well.'

Exeter scored early and added to the lead as the game progressed. The Exeter offense proved to be the best in the state, scoring 18 goals in the four postseason games.

Exeter's defense was also nearly impenetrable. The lone goal from Bedford was the only goal Exeter allowed in the playoffs.

'We kind of weathered the storm and they kept coming and coming,' Winning said. 'Somebody's going to beat them someday. It wasn't us today.'

To get to the finals, Bedford had a bye, then fought through No. 11 Keene, 2-0, in the second round. But the Bulldogs' first real test came in the semifinals against No. 2 Londonderry. They fought back from a 0-2 deficit with a flurry of scoring to win 4-3.

'The same situation happened on Wednesday with Londonderry,' Winning said. 'We were down 2-0, 20 minutes left in the game, and the thing about this team that's so fantastic is that they just fight until the end.'

The Bulldogs weren't able to make the same kind of comeback against Exeter, but despite the large deficit, they did continue to fight until the game was over.

'Today was a tough day for them, obviously, but they still were trying to go to goal at the end,' Winning said. 'I knew that this team was going to play to the final whistle no matter what the score. They've done that all year.'

But Bedford had its own impressive season. The Bulldogs went 11-3-2 in the regular season with solid play from their freshman goaltender to their well-rounded scoring attack.

Winning said she's seen tremendous progress from Brooke Barrett, her freshman goalie. Although Barrett allowed five goals, she turned away several more.

'Those types of goals that were scored on her, they're great goals,' Winning said. 'I think the score could have been a lot more than 5-1 if she weren't back there. She's got a lot of promise.'

Winning said her team had a good mix of each class, but the seniors will be particularly missed. Bedford loses six seniors for next fall's squad.

'That's a tough group to lose,' Winning said. 'Jenny and Molly have been good captains, they've brought the team together. Kelsey Kennedy - she's a spark plug out there. She'll do anything I ask her to do.'

Although the Bulldogs came up short, Winning deemed the team's first year in Division I a success. She has been with the team since Bedford High School opened, and said she's been extremely proud of this year's group.

'I never expected that we would be here today,' Winning said. 'To get here is a big step for us, and this group of girls played with heart all year. They never gave up, they're a special group of girls and they showed great progress and overcome some huge obstacles. It's been a very rewarding season as a coach. They've been great to work with, they've been a lot of fun and I'm happy to make it this far.'

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