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Softball

ConVal returns to Final Four

No. 2 seed to play Hollis/Brookline

  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The ConVal softball team defeated Souhegan 2-0 in the Division II preliminary round on Thursday, May 30, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Recent ConVal graduate Lauren Mackey helped the Cougars win the first state softball championship in school history this spring and in the fall, Mackey will attend Clark University to play both field hockey and softball.

Since the heartbreaking defeat in last year’s Division II semifinals, the goal for the ConVal softball team has been to make a return trip to the Final Four.

Mission accomplished.

With a 2-0 home win over No. 10 Trinity on Saturday in the D-II quarterfinals, the second-seeded Cougars will get another shot at advancing to the championship game. This time, ConVal (15-3) is hoping to make the most of its opportunity.

“This is what they all play for,” said ConVal coach Jim Coppo. “We have a common goal and that is to win. Being in the Final Four is a huge thing.”

But it won’t be easy with No. 3 Hollis/Brookline also looking for a chance to play for the Division II title. In the only regular season meeting between the two programs, the Cavaliers won 2-1 on April 30 behind a pair of solo home runs. It was ConVal’s first loss and the only blemish through the first 14 games of the season.

The semifinal contest will be played today at Southern New Hampshire University at 5 p.m. No. 1 Coe-Brown and No. 4 Goffstown will play at 7 p.m.

“It’s a tough spot to get to because you’ve got so many great teams,” said Coppo of the Final Four. “But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect it.”

But ConVal coach Jim Coppo is confident in his team’s chances, especially with junior Courtney Fisher in the circle. On Saturday, Fisher took a no hitter into the sixth inning and finished with 13 strikeouts in her second straight postseason shutout and fifth overall.

“We know when Courtney’s on, Courtney’s tough,” said Coppo. “She knows what’s expected of her and she goes out and does her job every day.”

And in typical ConVal fashion, the Cougars manufactured a couple runs that were the difference in the game.

With the game knotted at zero in the last of the fourth, sophomore JoEllen Racicot blooped a single to left for the first hit of the game and went to third on freshman Sasha Brock’s bunt. Then Racicot stole home for a 1-0 lead.

“I told Racicot she was stealing home,” said Coppo. “These kids are mentally prepared for anything that comes their way.”

With two outs, Fisher tripled off the left field fence to score Brock to make it 2-0. That was more than enough for Fisher. She allowed the first hit with two outs in the sixth and another with one out in the seventh, but Trinity did not have one runner get past second base. ConVal also only had two hits off Trinity starter Katie Pelton, but made both count.

In the playoff opener, the Cougars picked up their third two-run victory over Souhegan, winning 2-0. Senior Maxine Dunn scored in the third and Lauren Mackey made it 2-0 in the fourth.

Fisher struck out eight and got out of jams in the second and fifth innings with key defensive plays. After getting a deep fly ball to left to end the fifth, Fisher set the final six Souhegan hitters down in order.

Last year — when the Cougars lost a two-run lead with two outs in the seventh — was ConVal’s first trip to the semifinals since losing to Milford in extra innings in 2006.

“We’ve had some great softball teams at ConVal and some great players, but no team I’ve had in my 16 years comes close to this group,” said Coppo. “This team is as legit as it gets in high school softball.”

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