High school soccer Christopher Smith
---- — Andre Simmond, one of 77 players named to the National Soccer Coaches Association All-American team, transferred from Londonderry High to Brewster Academy.
Matt Cooper, ranked the No. 80 senior nationally by Top Drawer Soccer, opted to play club this fall instead of starring at Londonderry High.
And Brian Greene, another star, left the Lancers soccer program to concentrate on hockey.
With three top players not returning, you would think Londonderry would have struggled after a 16-2-1 season in 2011 when it lost 2-1 to Manchester Central in the state final.
The Lancers are 14-2-0 and head into the Division 1 playoffs this week believing they can win a state title.
One reason they have been so good: Rob Hart, who has 20 goals, including a four-goal performance in a 5-1 victory over Pinkerton on Sept. 29.
“Honestly, we’re just all having fun out there and we’re playing with our best friends,” Hart said. “Losing Cooper, Andre (and Greene) was obviously a big blow but we knew what we needed to do and who needed to fill those shoes. And certainly we have those kids. Kenny Desmarais and Alex Walter filled those shoes. ... We just tried to prove to people we could do it.”
The Lancers certainly won’t have it easy in a tournament field that includes Bedford (16-0), which handed Londonderry a 1-0 loss Oct. 5, and Hanover (14-2), which the Lancers beat 3-0 on Sept. 5.
Londonderry’s only other loss this season came against Winnacunnet (11-4-1) Sunday. Winnacunnet won 1-0.
“Bedford is our main concern, and (Manchester) Central (11-4-1) obviously we want to get back at them for them beating us last year in the state final,” Hart said.
Watch for Lancers
in girls tourney
While Londonderry boys faced three key defections, the Lancers girls team has been helped by the return of Lydia Simmons, one of the best senior forwards in the country, from Brewster Academy and star midfield Maeve Holland from Central Catholic.
“Two fantastic athletes, two fantastic soccer players, so them being back is phenomenal,” Londonderry coach Derek Dane said.
Londonderry finished the regular season 14-2-0.
“I think we’ve had, thus far, a fantastic run,” Dane said. “If we finish our chances, we’re fantastic.”
Three-time Division 1 defending state championship Exeter (16-0) is the Division 1 top seed.
The Lancers lost 4-3 to Exeter in their season opener Aug. 24. Londonderry’s only other loss was a 1-0 setback against Pinkerton on Sept. 29.
“Exeter is better this year than they were last year,” Dane said. “Bedford (11-3-2) is new to the division so that’s a wild card in itself. Pinkerton (10-4-2) always competes and you always have a dark horse. ... We have the players.”