Given what’s happened this season, New Hampshire college lacrosse coaches may want to stay close to home when looking for offensive talent in the future.
Granite State natives have the most runs on women’s lacrosse teams statewide – Mackenzie MacEachern of Bedford at the University of New Hampshire, Shelby Cole of Gilford at Southern New Hampshire University, Brigid Casey of Mount Vernon at Keene State College, Julia Donovan from Antrim at Plymouth State University and Lauren Rich from Plaistow at New England College.
Circumstances made it difficult to see Bedford’s MacEachern play at UNH last year as a rookie. She missed time with health issues, came off the bench in all seven of her appearances and COVID restrictions limited the number of fans who were even allowed in games. This season, however, the eyeballs have been glued to MacEachern, a second-year midfielder.
“Mac is phenomenal,” UNH coach Kacie Lewis said. “Honestly, anybody watching our game or the coaches we’re up against, they’re all like, ‘Who’s number 10?’ She attracts all eyes.”
Heading into Saturday’s game against No. 5 Stony Brook, MacEachern has 34 points this season with 25 goals (tied for the team lead with senior Delaney Pratt) and nine assists. She’s also second on the team in turnovers caused (11) and had 12 rushed balls for the Wildcats, who are 6-5 with three regular-season games remaining after their switch to Stony Brook.
“She’s so hard to stop,” Lewis said of MacEachern. “We can play her anywhere – on the ball, off the ball, she can play low, she can play high, we can isolate her, we can give her choices, she’s so versatile in everything she does and so fast. Her nickname is “Shifty” and she lives up to it. »
In contrast, MacEachern had just five points all last season with three goals and two assists. This slow transition to the college level is not surprising since MacEachern’s senior season at Bedford High was canceled due to the pandemic, she had a broken foot that spring which derailed part of her training before her arrived at UNH, and then she was not in perfect health for her freshman year in college.
This year, however, it’s a different story.
“I’ve had a lot more opportunities this season and time on the pitch so it’s easier to show up with that time,” MacEachern said, “and I’ve gained confidence every game.”
She’s not the only New Hampshire native to thrive for UNH. Junior defender Jesslyn Hounchell, who hails from Manchester and went to New Hampton School, has started all 11 games and is fourth on the team in ground balls.
“She really adapted to what we needed this season,” said Lewis, who noted that Hounchell had held several positions in the team’s defensive scheme and had “embraced” learning these different roles. .
Senior midfielder Abby Cranney, a graduate of Souhegan High School in Amherst, is seventh on the team with 11 points (nine goals, two assists) and started all 11 games for the Wildcats.
“(Cranney) is someone who is pretty consistent and just does his job, and ultimately that’s what we need from a midfielder,” Lewis said. “She works very hard and I think she just understands the game.”
Cranney is one of three Souhegan graduates on the roster along with graduate midfielder Gabby Masseur and freshman forward Abby Hawkes.
“It’s awesome, it seems like every year there’s always one from Souhegan coming in freshman year, so it’s almost like high school,” Cranney said. “Souhegan was definitely a great program where I learned a lot from the coaches and had some great teammates.”
Advance to SNHU
Gilford’s Shelby Cole made an impact last year as an SNHU rookie when she started 11 of 12 games and finished fourth on the team in points (18), tied for third in goals (11) and tied for second in assists (seven). It’s been an impressive start, and Cole has gotten even better this season, as have the Penmen, who were just 2-10 last year but are 5-3 this season before. their game against Southern Connecticut State on Saturday.
“I knew she had skills, but I didn’t know where her IQ fell,” SNHU freshman coach Carissa Medeiros said of her first impressions of Cole. “But suddenly she got it, she got it, she got what we were doing, and her skills and her own athletic vision coupled with more structure took her game from being a good player to being an exceptional impact player. for us.”
Cole leads the Penmen in points (32) and goals (23) and is second in assists (nine). She also leads the team in ground balls (20) and is tied for second in turnovers caused (nine). As a freshman, Cole finished with 14 ground balls and five turnovers for the entire season. His defensive improvement was one of Cole’s personal goals this season.
“I had never really focused on defense before,” Cole said. “I feel like on the trip I was very attacking, like I am in other sports, so I really tried to focus on my defense to improve because that’s just as important than attack.”
With her nine turnovers caused in eight games, Cole is on pace to achieve this defensive goal, just as she is on pace to achieve one of her other personal goals – averaging four points per game.
Freshman offense Madison Keating of Milton is another New Hampshire native who helps power the SNHU offense. The Bishop Guertin graduate originally went to Indianapolis University but transferred to SNHU after the first semester. Missing the drop slowed Keating’s integration into the program and her transition to the college level, but she’s currently fifth on the team in goals (nine) and sixth in points (11).
“Now (Keating) understands the adjustments she has to make to be successful at this level and she has key goals and assists for us,” Medeiros said. “She is very important for what we do in attack.”
Another Bishop Guertin graduate, junior Sydney Todd, is very important to what the Penmen do on defense. Todd is one of the best 1-on-1 defenders in SNHU, he’s smart on team defense and tackles ground balls exactly the way the coach wants – head down and at full speed.
“When the ball is on the ground, she’s a kid who I know is going to fight for it,” Medeiros said of Todd, “and more often than not she comes in with those loose balls.”
Do it in Division III
Brigid Casey is one of Souhegan’s “good teammates” that UNH’s Abby Cranney played with in high school. Casey, a senior captain offense at Keene State, has been an offensive force right from the start of college and she’s not slowing down this year as she leads the Owls (2-6) in points (37), goals ( 24) and assists (13) this season.
Last year, Casey was the Little East Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in points per game (5.5) and assists per game (2-2). Keene State only played three games in the 2020 season when Casey was a sophomore, but in her freshman year she led the team in points (77) and goals (55).
Plaistow’s Lauren Rich is also continuing a very productive 2021 with another high scoring season. Rich, a New England College senior midfielder who went to Timberlane Regional High, leads the Pilgrims (5-6) in points (41) and goals (36) and is second on the team with five assists. It’s the same pattern she followed last year when she led the Pilgrims in points (54) and goals (43) and was second in assists (11).
Three of Plymouth State’s women’s lacrosse team’s top five point totals (7-3) belong to New Hampshire natives – Julia Donovan of Antrim, Emily Santom of Litchfield and Devon Mello of Laconia. Santom scored six goals in the Panthers’ 13-11 win over Keene State on Saturday.
Donovan, a freshman who went to ConVal in Peterborough, had no problem adjusting to the college level. She leads the Panthers in points (42), assists (18) and shots (47), and is second in goals (24). Santom, a junior offense that went to Bishop Guertin, leads the team with 27 goals and is third with 28 points. Mello, a Laconia senior captain midfielder, is tied for fifth on the team in points (16) and goals (14).