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Globe North sports notebook

Fernandes helps Saint Rose to title

By John Vellante
Globe Correspondent / December 11, 2011
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Previously, Derith Fernandes’s favorite moment on the women’s soccer team at the College of Saint Rose came as a freshman, when she scored a shootout goal in the Northeast-10 Conference championship match.

Now that bit of trivia has been replaced by an achievement on a much grander scale, after the senior defender (inset) out of Billerica Memorial High and her teammates captured the NCAA Division 2 soccer title last weekend in Pensacola, Fla.

The 2-1 win over two-time defending champion Grand Valley State made up for three years of frustration, after the Golden Knights had advanced deep into the tournament the previous three seasons but each time came away empty-handed.

“Every year our goal has been to get to the national championship game and every year we came close, but always came up short. It was hard and very discouraging,’’ said Fernandes, who played for Tom Severo at Billerica and was a team captain her junior and senior seasons.

“This year the seven seniors met and all agreed that if we lost again, we would have failed ourselves. We were determined to win a national title before we graduated and we did. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders,’’ she said. “Now we can all graduate with no regrets.’’

Fernandes has been an integral part of a terrific run at Saint Rose, which went 90-7-7- over the last four seasons, including 24-1-1 this fall. The only blemishes this season were a 1-1 double-overtime tie against University of Massachusetts Lowell on Sept. 9, and a 3-0 loss to Merrimack on Oct. 15.

Fernandes was not an offensive force, scoring just eight goals in 96 career games, but that was by design. Saint Rose had a wealth of scorers, and her role was more of a playmaker. This year, however, with two of the team’s top defenders lost to graduation, Fernandes was asked by coach Lauri Darling Guthiel to move from striker and anchor a strong, yet young, defense.

“We knew she could play defense, but how she played it went way beyond our expectations,’’ the coach said. “As the season progressed, she got better and better. She had a phenomenal postseason tournament. She, as well as her teammates, shut down some of the most potent strikers in the country.’’

Fernandes’s play was rewarded not only with the national championship, but also a spot on the all-tourney team.

Among her teammates was StephanieVance, a sophomore back from Billerica. However, Vance was slowed by injuries and played in just six games.

“We expect her to step up next year,’’ Darling Guthiel said of Vance. “She has a lot of potential and will have an opportunity to make her mark in the spring.’’

Cremens benefit

Friends of Tommy Cremens are planning a comedy night fund-raiser in honor of the late Red Sox bat boy, who died earlier this year at the age of 52 from injuries after falling from a ladder at his home in Woburn. The event is Dec. 20 from 6 to 10 p.m. at House of Blues in Boston.

Cremens worked for the Red Sox in the mid-1970s and forged enduring friendships with outfielder Bernie Carbo, pitcher Bill Lee, and other players on Boston’s 1975 World Series team.

Proceeds from the comedy show will benefit the Tommy Cremens Foundation.

Campus corner

Tough way for the Franklin Pierce men’s soccer team, including senior keeper Vinny Papageorgiou of Wilmington, to end a record-setting season. Unbeaten through the first 22 games, the Ravens (21-1-1) fell to Lynn (Fla.) University 1-0, in the NCAA Division 2 semifinals. Papageorgiou played every minute (2,119, plus 47 seconds) of every game this season, allowing just 12 goals for a 0.51 goals-against average with 13 shutouts . . . Fitchburg State sophomore basketball forward Amy Fahey of Wilmington scored 27 points against Simmons and 18 more against Emerson, earning her second consecutive MASCAC Player of the Week honors . . . The conference also gave the weekly award to Westfield State freshman OliviaMarshall of North Andover and Fitchburg State senior Matt Muolo of Stoneham. Marshall won the honor in women’s track after winning the 3,000-meter race at the Springfield Invitational, and Muolo earned his kudos in men’s field events at the same competition, where he qualified for the Division 3 New England, ECAC and All-New England championships in the shot put with a heave of 54 feet 6.9 inches.

Around and about

Ryan Connolly will succeed his father, Steve, as lacrosse coach at North Andover High. The elder Connolly retired after a 33-year career that included stints at Billerica Memorial and UMass Lowell, and had an overall record of 425-192. Ryan Connolly played for his dad at North Andover and was an All-American in 2001 as a senior before playing at UMass Amherst. He’s spent the last six years as an assistant to his father . . . Andover golfer Rob Oppenheim will return to the Nationwide Tour after failing to qualify for his PGA card by just two strokes. He had rounds of 76-71-68-74-69-68 in La Quinta, Calif., to finish 38th overall. The top 25 and ties qualified for PGA Tour cards. He opened with a par, bogey, and back-to-back double bogeys, but settled down to play the rest of the six rounds at 11 under par.

John Vellante can be reached at JohnPVel@aol.com.

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