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GIRLS LACROSSE 2024: South, BG, HB top the local field

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Apr 15, 2024

Nashua South's Ella Benzekeri, last year's Telegraph Player of the Year, is back to help lead the Panthers back to the Division I Final Four. She is on the verge of scoring her 200th career goal as this week begins at Concord. (Telegraph file photo by TOM KING)

Last year, it was simply other teams’ turn to share and dominate the spotlight in girls lacrosse.

Yes, while the Bishop Guertin High School girls lacrosse team made it to the semifinals, their title reign in Division I ended. Nashua South reached the semis for the first time and Hollis Brookline in Division II did everyone one better, winning a championship.

What to expect this season? More of the same top local teams competing. Guertin actually has elevated assistant Callie Santos to head coach, with Leslie Why moving into an assistant’s role, a switch if you will. And Nashua North has brought back a former coach, Jen Dyer, to take over what has been a struggling program. Katie Todd is the new Merrimack head coach, and Milford also had a change, with Steve Vetack retiring and Shannon Finnegan taking over. That’s almost half the area’s programs.

Here’s a look:


The Cards split their first two games, beating Souhegan 12-4 but losing in overtime at Portsmouth 12-11 – but that was an improvement over their two meetings with the Clippers last year, the latter in the semis. They have a good nucleus, led by senior attacks Lauren Redfern and Anna Campel, senior midfielders Arianna Kouchalakos and Kamryn Schmitt, defenders Jordan Gaebel (junior) and Hailey LeBlanc (senior) plus junior goalie Maddy Eder-Linell. All saw plenty of time last season and are potential All-State material.

“I’m excited for the opportunity work with this group,” Santos said. “We bring back a strong team core and have some promising new players who have joined the program.”

Meanwhile, Nashua South returns the Telegraph Player of the Year, senior midfielder Ella Benzekri, to try to lead them back to the Final Four, and they’ve started out 2-0 heading into this week with back to back wins over Concord and Londonderry, the latter a tight one. Benzekri is on the verge of getting her 200th goal. Two other key seniors are attack Morgan Udzanovich and goalie Keira Walsh.

It’s a good group of juniors, headed by midfielder Maren Lowell – 100 points – plus defenseman Nevaeh Eppolito, midfielder Karina O’Donnell and defender Brynn Teft.

“We have good numbers this year with lots of new players to round out some roster spots,” Panthers coach Ciki McIntire said. “We’re hoping we can stay healthy this season so tha we can compete all spring… We’re really looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.”

So is Dyer at Nashua North, who knows this is step one.

“Our goal this season is to improve every singl game, and we’re excited for this season to start,” she said prior to the first couple of games.

Key players start with senior attack Summer St. Pierre and defenser Kaitlyn Frye. Juniors Molly Ducharme (midfield), Elliott Brown (goalie) and Rache Gauthier (defense) have important roles, as do sophomores Savanna Basford (midfield) and Anya Seo (defense/attack).

It was a tough start for North, falling 16-1 to the Souhegan on Friday. Souhegan, as the Sabers are every year, should be solid once again, starting the first week with a 1-1- split.

“Our depth is the best it has been since I have been coaching at Souhegan,” Sabers mentor McKinley Curro said. “I am really fired up to see what this group can do.”

Key players include Lyla Kimball, who can play anywhere on the field; Emma Kennedy on attack, midfielder Maddie Lim, who will take a lot of draws, Allison Jordan back on defense after missing last year with a torn ACL, and another player dominant on thedraw, Nat Heimarck. Promising newcomers include Libby Kennedy, Izabelle Stevenson, Sophie Jacobs and Lanai Hickman.

The Sabers have seniors who have started since freshman year, plus, as Curro said, “Awesome young and hungry talent.”

At Merrimack, which has yet to play thanks to weather/field conditions but opens up today at Londonderry, Todd has a good nucleus to work with, led by senior goalie Ema Shorette and juniors Ava Martin (midfield), Summer Dalbec-Joyal (defense) and Payton Trebaney (attack). Three sophomores will see important time: midfielders Jackie Hayes and Liv Mitchell, plus defenseman Natalia Williams.

It is a young team.

“We have girls who are natural leaders, on and off the field, and are showing the newcomers what it means to be a member of Merrimack High School’s lacrosse team,” Todd said.


Linda Haytayan has a title in her back pocket, and the Cavs should be contenders once again, led by junior 100-goal scorer Sabrina Hill, already committed to Saint Anselm; senior midfielder Cailean Roy, headed for Southern Connecticut State, and junior defender Juliette Ogren, already set for Furman in two years. HB looked solid in a 13-5 win over Oyster River this past week.

Other keys are junior attack Samantha Smith, p;lus junior defenders Addison Dougherty and McKenna Maguire. Watch out too for newcomber Naya Jernberg, a junior on defense.

Still, nothing is guaranteed.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Haytayan said. “So far this group has shown intensity, focus and desire to fill the big shoes of the six seniors we graduated last year.

“If we can maintain and continue to grow the passion and energy, build onto our chemistry and stay healthy, we’ll be a solid team.”

Alvirne, after going 0-16, has nowhere to go but up, led by senior captain Makayla Meehan at midfield/defense plus junior captains Audriana Chipperini and Addison Lemire, both at mifield/attack.

The Broncos have seniors on defesne which should also help – Lydia Tolentino, Ava Kiskaduros, Rachel Stevens, plus junior returnees Victory Chapman, Reece Durkee and Gianna Allison.

They’re hoping for offense from, besides their captains, fellow juniors Adiana Reilly, Jaliceanna Santiago and Kyle Grove.

“I have high hopes to be a better team this year,” Broncos coach Pat Meehan said, adding that despite two lopsided losses he sees improvement already.


Finneran takes over Milford after a good group of seniors that buoyed the team for two years graduated. But back is senior middie/attack Addyson Pare, as well as seniors Ava Krycki (midfield) and Myia Cederberg (defense). Sophomore goalie Violet Renda and defender Quinn Costifas will also be keys.

The Spartans had a tough 13-0 loss vs. Laconia to start the season. But the strength may be the team’s youth as far as the future is concerned.

“We have a very talented freshmen class that came in this year,” Finneran said, “along with great talent returning. … I feel very strongly that we will be a hard team to face and a top contender for postseason.”

Campbell is very young, not getting a senior until a week or so into the preseason, Katherine Niswander on defense. The Cougars suffered a tough 19-5 loss in their opener this past Friday.

There are three key juniors, Callie Hoover at midfield, Abigail Guerrette on defense, and Rania Chaudhry in goal.

Two freshmen midfielders, Lilli Wilson and Ava Grant, will see plenty of time.

“A lot of our youth does have a decent skillset, more so than in past years with newer players,” Cougar coach Mike Theriault said. “We just need to increase the lacrosse IQ and tactical in-game experience as the season develops. Great group of girls looking to learn, develop, and hustle.”


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