AMHERST — It was a battle of unbeatens in the world of field hockey, and it was the Derryfield School of Manchester Cougars who stamped themselves as a team to beat in Division II with a convincing 3-0 win over Souhegan.
After an even opening stretch, Derryfield got on the board when Lindsey Stagg fired in a shot off a penalty corner that was deflected in by Anna Templeton.
“We weathered the storm at the beginning,” Derryfield coach Lenny McCaigue said. “We bent a little bit but didn’t break, and then we sort of worked our way into it. I knew if we could create some opportunities on set pieces that we would give ourselves opportunities to score.”
Stagg stole the show with her strong play up and down the field and left her mark with her penalty corners. Less than four minutes after Templeton’s goal, Stagg rocketed in another shot off a penalty corner that found the back of the net.
Stagg capped her day with one more goal, again off a penalty corner, with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. In total, the Cougars scored on three of their five penalty corners.
“We’ve worked really hard for her to become a penalty corner specialist because she has that skill to create space for herself to get a shot or, if she gets a clean stop, she has a hard shot,” McCaigue said of the University of Michigan-bound Stagg. “We got some nice variations as well.”
Derryfield locked down Souhegan’s offense throughout. The Sabers mustered just one shot on goal and three penalty corners.
At no point did the Sabers generate a quality scoring chance thanks to the precise defensive game plan by the Cougars.
The goals were the first that Souhegan had surrendered all season after starting 10-0 and outscoring opponents 29-0.
“We talked about them having not being scored on and how they might react to that mentally when the first goal went in,” McCaigue said. “Overall, I thought after the first 10, 15 minutes we really started to compete and managed the game well.”
The win improved Derryfield to 11-0-1, the lone blemish being a 0-0 draw with Hanover on Sept. 27.
Despite controlling large swaths of the game, and taking down one of the top teams in the state on its own field, there are still things to polish ahead of the state tournament later this month.
“With their speed they exposed our press some of the time,” Stagg said. “Maybe we’ll work on tightening that up for playoffs.”