The combined population of Amherst and Mont Vernon is roughly 13,500, which wouldn’t even be among the 20 largest communitiesin the Granite State by population. But within those two small towns is one of New Hampshire’s model girls lacrosse programs.

Since 2003, Souhegan has advanced to seven Division I title games, winning three of them, including in 2017.

“I would have to say lacrosse has always kind of been a prime sport in this area,” Souhegan coach Maren Petropulos said. “We have great youth programs to support the sport. We have great facilities. There are a couple of local summer travel teams, Granite State Elite and Tomahawks, that really support the sport. The high school truly benefits from all the opportunities that these kids have to play it from a very young age.”

The continued success of the Sabers’ program is showing dividends at the next level. The UNH lacrosse team, having its best season in nearly a decade, features three former Sabers in key roles on the team.

On Saturday against UMBC all three former Sabers had their moments in a key conference game. Senior Mickenzie Larivee had four goals to pace UNH in a 15-10 win while freshman Taylor Dudek played lockdown defense and was a force in the clearing game. Fellow freshman Abby Cranney played meaningful minutes off the bench.

The Wildcats are currently 9-5, their most wins in a season since earning 10 victories in 2010. The win total equals the total number of wins over the previous two seasons, and, with two games left in the campaign, the Wildcats remain in contention for the America East title.

It starts with Larivee, who spent her first three years of college at Boston University, where she twice led the Terriers in goals. Now, in her final year of eligibility, Larivee has started all 14 games for the Wildcats and is third on the team with 25 goals.

“At Souhegan we gained a lot of confidence and encouragement from our coaches, which helps coming up to this next level,” Larivee said. “You need to have that confidence in yourself because no one is going to give that to you. Building that up in high school with those coaches really helped us, I think.”

Cranney was a star in every way at Souhegan. A two-time all-state player, Cranney was the MVP of Souhegan’s 2017 state championship team.

She says that playing in those pressure-packed games helped get her ready for college.

“Those big games in high school definitely translate to games here,” Cranney said. “We got big ones coming up. That confidence and the way I played then will definitely help me here.”

Dudek has immediately made an impact on the Wildcat defense this season. Her nine caused turnovers are good for fourth on the team.

After spending three years at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, Dudek transferred to Souhegan for her senior season and played alongside Cranney, her teammate on the Granite State Elite team.

“It was nice when I wanted to transfer my senior year, which is never the easiest, Souhegan was really welcoming with some of my friends that I played summer lacrosse with,” Dudek said.

Despite coaching her for only one season, Petropulos spoke highly of Dudek’s ability and dedication to the game.

“She decided to transfer to Souhegan her senior year and started for us on day one,” Petropulos said. “She is an incredible defender and plays effortlessly. She knows how to develop her footwork and intensity. I know that she would contribute at UNH right off the bat.”