Lady Astro Booters Snag Their First State Championship

Pinkerton Academy varsity girls’ soccer squads played in state championship matches in 1992, 2005, and 2007 without winning a title.

But the 2015 Lady Astros’ crew capped off its superb campaign on Sunday by climbing to the top of the Division I mountain with an historic victory.

The Lady Astros claimed the first state title in PA girls’ soccer history by out-dueling the arch-rival Londonderry High Lady Lancers in a shoot-out in the D-I championship match at Exeter High School on Sunday, Nov. 8.

The two teams played a full regulation contest and then two, 10-minute overtime stanzas without scoring even a single goal. So, in order to decide who would take the D-I championship, the squads rolled into penalty kicks. And in that deciding round of play, Pinkerton had four of its shooters net goals while PA goalie Sammy Mitchell stopped two of the five LHS shooters from scoring to put the game down in the record books as a 1-0 Pinkerton victory.

“We practice penalty kicks every day because they can make the difference between winning and losing a state championship,” said PA coach Steve Gundrum.

The top-seeded Astros and third-ranked Lady Lancers had met once during the regular season, with the academy girls snagging a 1-0 win in Mack Plaque play in September. And based on that game and their knowledge of how the LHS crew’s 2015 campaign had gone, Gundrum and his girls knew that putting a ball in the back of the LHS net would be a huge challenge.

“They’re great defensively,” said Gundrum. “They only allowed eight goals all season, so scoring a goal on them is really something.”

And scoring wasn’t something either the Lady Astros or their opponents were able to manage in 80 minutes of regulation time play or 20 additional minutes of overtime in the title match.

Depending on what angle fans were at during the middle of the second half, there was either a controversial and unacknowledged goal or a great defensive play made when Londonderry’s junior midfielder Mackenzie Donovan lofted a corner kick from the left side of the field in the Pinkerton defensive zone toward the PA net.

There were folks standing along side of the net who felt they saw the ball go over the goal line and quickly get headed out by Pinkerton defender Keara Doolan, while people elsewhere in the stadium thought PA goalie Sammy Mitchell had knocked the ball away somehow. But the play didn’t face any on-field scrutiny by the officials or coaches, and play continued in short order.

Pinkerton had advantages in shots on net in the first half (5-1) and the second (6-2) for a total tally of 11-3 shots on net in regulation time.

Londonderry was the stronger of the two squads during most of the two overtime stanzas, putting four shots on the PA cage to the Lady Astros’ one shot on the Londonderry net. But still the score sat unchanged.

During the shootout, the Lady Astros received scores from Courtney Velho, Catherine Goodwin, Reanna Romano, and Mel Roberge. PA keeper Mitchell saw the third LHS shooter clang a shot off the crossbar, and after four shooters had taken their attempts the Astros grasped a 4-3 lead. Hence, if Pinkerton goalie Mitchell could stop the fifth LHS shooter, the Lady Astros would win the game and the championship. And that’s what happened, with the PA goalie making the save and sending her crew into a wild celebration.

“This win feels absolutely amazing,” said Mitchell after the trophy ceremony. “This is my senior year, and this team has been absolutely amazing this season, so winning this is really special.”

The Lady Astros had advanced to the title match with a hard-fought, 1-0 win over fifth-seeded Bedford in a semifinal-round battle at Nashua’s Stellos Stadium Thursday night, Nov. 5.

The lone goal was scored with 22:35 left in the first half when PA standout sophomore forward Nicole Alves gathered the loose ball after a Bedford defender had whiffed on a kick while trying to clear the ball from in front of her net. Alves then put the ball past the Lady Bulldogs’ goalie in netting the only goal of the night.

“We played our best soccer of the season in the first half,” said Gundrum. “We controlled the game and should have had the game put away by halftime with the number of dangerous chances we had. Bedford came out aggressive and applied pressure in the second half, but our defense and keeper didn’t allow them to score.”

PA goalie Mitchell contributed 11 saves to that, her squad’s ninth shutout of the fall. And the historic 1-0 blanking of Londonderry’s Lady Lancers three days later became shutout number 10.