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Alex Hall's H.S. Lacrosse: Lancers' goal is to win a title

By ALEX HALL
April 25. 2018 2:21AM
Londonderry High School Lacrosse coach Roger Sampson during practice on Tuesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)



Roger Sampson has experience as a varsity head boys’ lacrosse coach and coaching within the Londonderry High School system. Serving as the head coach of the Lancers boys’ varsity program this season has been a new endeavor, however.

Sampson has coached lacrosse since 2000. He previously served as head coach at Pelham and Nashua North and coached within the Londonderry system as a sub-varsity coach.

In his first season leading Londonderry (3-1), Sampson has implemented some changes he thinks will help the program achieve its ultimate goal.

“We’re fighting for championships,” Sampson said. “We want the kids to understand that more than anything else. This program fights for championships. We’ve never won one so we’re kind of overdue.”

Londonderry’s offense has switched from its previous run-and-gun style to a more possession-based approach with an eye toward getting the midfielders more involved, Sampson said. The Lancers have 13 coaches throughout their system, many of whom are alumni. Sampson felt it was important to add more coaches to create more one-on-one and position-specific teaching opportunities.

“If you look at BG (Bishop Guertin of Nashua) and Pinkerton, they have 5-8 coaches on the sideline,” Sampson said. “Londonderry has traditionally only had two at the varsity level. We needed to change that in order to compete with them.”

Another benefit to the Londonderry program is the new middle school team, which began this season. Sampson said now the Lancers can teach the middle-school players their philosophy and on-field schemes before they enter the program in high school.

Sampson, who served in the United States Marines Corps, said his transition from assisting within the program to leading it has been a seamless one. It helps that Sampson has coached most of his players either on the program’s freshman team or within the football program, in which he serves as a sub-varsity coach.

“It’s been easy and I think it’s been pretty easy for them to accept me as coach, too,” Sampson said. “The expectations are high here. We need them to know that and believe in themselves and build confidence. We’re working on that this season and I think we’re well on track.”

Londonderry went to work building that confidence right away this season, defeating Salem, 9-7, in its season-opener on April 9 and following up with a 10-4 win over Nashua South three days later.

The Lancers played well against archrival Pinkerton before the Astros pulled away for a 13-6 victory on April 17. Londonderry trailed, 5-3, after the opening quarter. The contest was overshadowed by an assault that occurred in the crowd and led to responses from Derry police, ambulance and fire personnel.

“It’s kind of sad that’s become the focal point of the game,” Sampson said of the assault. “The focal point should’ve been Londonderry held their own against Pinkerton for awhile and they’re young and the sky’s the limit for this team. That’s what should have come out of that.”

Sampson has been impressed by a number of his players already this year but the efforts of junior goalkeeper Patrick Murphy, junior Jake Holland, seniors Mike McAlister and Nate Andrews, freshman Aidan Dennis and sophomores Jeff Wiedenfeld and Cole Keegan have especially stood out, he said.

The Lancers will need contributions from all levels through the rest of this stretch they are in. Londonderry will meet Exeter twice, face Portsmouth, last year’s Division II runner-up, play at two-time defending Division I champion Bishop Guertin and Souhegan of Amherst and host both Pinkerton and Bedford over its next eight games.

Sampson said the Lancers will not look ahead and try to build off each game during this run.

“Hopefully, we’re building off victories each and every time and setting a tone for playoffs,” Sampson said. “I’m not saying we’re going to be in the playoffs but I will say that’s our goal.”

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The Souhegan boys’ team was known for having a stout goalkeeper leading its defense the last several seasons. While the Sabers have a new face minding the net this season, their talent at the position has not changed much.

Junior goalie John Lohnes has showcased the same stinginess his predecessor, Alex Burnley, now a freshman on the Dartmouth men’s lacrosse team, displayed during his Sabers career.

With Lohnes in goal, Souhegan held each of its first five opponents, which included Bedford and Framingham (Mass.), to single-digit scoring outputs.

“I always knew he’d be very good,” Sabers coach Keith Bertrand said of Lohnes. “The secret is out about him. We knew it was going to be. I think he’s one of the top five goalies in the state. Obviously, I’m biased but he has the talent to be that guy.”

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There are a number of interesting school-vacation week tilts left on the schedule on both the boys’ and girls’ side. Here are some I’m keeping my eye on.

Boys’ games

Exeter at Londonderry (Thursday)

Londonderry will learn plenty about itself over this strenuous run of opponents it will face over the next few weeks. For the Blue Hawks, this will be another good test. Exeter opened the season with a 9-4 win over Bedford on April 9 and its 14-8 loss to Pinkerton on April 12 was the Astros’ closest game through their first four.

Pinkerton at Souhegan (Thursday)

It’s not surprising but the Astros have looked like championship material to start the season, defeating their first four opponents by a combined score of 61-19. Two of Souhegan’s three losses were one-goal affairs against strong competition in Bedford and Framingham (Mass.).

Girls’ games

Exeter at Bedford (Thursday)

These two are traditionally among the top teams in the division and this game should reflect that. Exeter enters the contest sporting a 3-0 road record. The Bulldogs won two of their first three games, all of which were played on home turf. Their lone loss was a season-opening 10-9 setback against Pinkerton.

Hanover at Windham (Today)

It’s not often during the high school lacrosse season that you see a home-and-home series. Hanover (1-3), last year’s D-II runner-up, will host Windham, a semifinalist last year, before traveling to the Jaguars’ home turf on Friday. Windham (3-2) has outscored its opponents a combined 44-12 in its three wins.

Hanover will look to get back in the win column following three straight losses to Middlebury (Vt.) Union, Division I Pinkerton and reigning D-II champion Portsmouth.

The High School Lacrosse column runs Wednesdays during the season. Alex Hall can be reached at ahall@unionleader.com.


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