By Tris Wykes

HANOVER – Close matches during the regular season have been somewhat rare for the Hanover High girls soccer team the past few years. The Marauders outscored their opponents, 81-4, last fall en route to their second consecutive NHIAA Division II title.

Tuesday brought Goffstown to Merriman-Branch Field for the hosts’ first-ever Division I game. Hanover moved up a classification this season but is playing most of its contests locally and against lower division foes because of Covid-19 concerns. Goals by senior forward Charlotte Johnson produced a 2-1 victory that didn’t feel that close.

Hanover High forward Charlotte Johnson, right, and Goffstown goalkeeper Ava Vaughn and fullback Erin Cammarota meet in midair Tuesday at Merriman-Branch Field. The host Marauders won, 2-1, with Johnson scoring both goals.

The Marauders held a 22-7 shot advantage and took six of the game’s nine corner kicks. Johnson scored at the end of a nice passing sequence during the 17th minute and converted a penalty shot 10 minutes later.

“We made sure we played big, because Division I is faster and more aggressive,” said Johnson, a first team all-state player last season. “Keep the ball moving forward and possessing, that was our goal.”

Hanover mostly succeeded but Grizzlies goalkeeper Ava Vaughn made 15 saves and boomed her punts, keeping Goffstown (0-1) in the game. The Marauders (2-0) opened the scoring when Maeve Lee dribbled up the middle and into the penalty area before passing to her left to Sage McGinley-Smith, running in at an angle from the wing.

McGinley-Smith gave Vaughn a look as though preparing to shoot before moving the ball across the box to a charging Johnson, who blasted the pass into the net’s near side. 

“We have a lot of speed on our team, especially up top,” Johnson said. “When we saw Goffstown was playing with only three on the back line, Sage and I started switching sides as often as we could, just to confuse them. We wanted to utilize the space on the outside.”

Johnson earned her penalty-kick chance, sprinting on to a loose ball at the top of the Goffstown box and colliding with Vaughn as they reached the bouncing orb. The ball squirted sideways and Grizzlies defender Emma Boucher arrived to collect it. Johnson stepped towards her but was hauled down by Vaughn, drawing a whistle.

Hanover High’s Charlotte Johnson (16) steps towards Goffstown’s Emma Boucher (5) on Tuesday at Merriman-Branch Field. Grizzlies goalkeeper Ava Vaughn, at right, was ruled to have fouled Johnson as the play unfolded, resulting in the Marauders senior converting a penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.

Goffstown earned its own penalty kick two minutes after halftime but junior Emma Kleber, in her first season at goalkeeper, dove right to make a save. That denial loomed larger 14 minuets later when the Grizzlies’ Kat Levesque knocked in Lizzy Chauvette’s corner kick to halve the visitors’ deficit. 

“We lost some intensity at the start of the second half,” Johnson said. “But we turned it on once they scored. Our back line with Elsa (Bollinger) and Skouly (Kachikas) really brought some intensity.”

Hanover next plays Sept. 29 when it hosts Stevens. 

Notes: The Marauders’ Riley McGuire went down with an apparent ankle injury in the first half and did not return… Hanover is 61-11-7 since the start of the 2018 season… One of the game’s referees was Tom Frederick, who’s also the longtime Sunapee High baseball coach and athletic director.

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Hanover High forward Sage McGinley-Smith sends Goffstown defender Maya Thomas flying Tuesday.