By Tris Wykes

LEBANON – The goalkeeper said she was bumped, leading to a dropped ball that produced the winning goal. Her coach backed that account.

The alleged bumper said she was woozy, having just previously headed the ball, and couldn’t say if she did or did not make contact on her way out of the penalty area. The bumper’s coach said he was looking in the other direction at the time.

The truth of the matter may remain in doubt, but it was the Hanover High girls soccer team that came away a 1-0 victory Saturday morning at Harold R. Colburn Field. The Marauders’ Charlotte Johnson pounced on a turnover from the hands of Lebanon goalkeeper Sally Rainey before dribbling around her and scoring in the 16th minute.

Hanover High’s Charlotte Johnson (16) goes airborne against Lebanon’s Kiera Hines during the NHIAA teams’ Saturday clash at Harold R. Coburn Field. Hanover won, 1-0.

Rainey, the best girls soccer backstop this region has seen for many years, protested but not vehemently. Raiders coach Breck Taber shouted a few objections before lapsing into disgusted silence.

“No one should touch the goalie in that situation,” Taber said. “We should have had a scoreless tie.”

The play began when a kick into the right side of the Raiders’ penalty area somewhat short-hopped Rainey, who caught the ball and fell to the ground. 

Players from both teams began jogging towards midfield, including Hanover’s Noor van Aalst, who passed close by Rainey. As she did, the goalkeeper suddenly lost control of the ball and it spun out of her hands to her left. Johnson took two quick touches before shooting successfully inside the near post. 

The moment felt somewhat surreal. Rainey didn’t seem to react immediately and at least half the players on the field weren’t looking at the scoring sequence. Neither were many fans or Hanover coach Doug Kennedy, all of whom assumed there would be a few seconds of inactivity before a Rainey punt or throw.

Asked if she made contact with the goalkeeper, van Aalst said she wasn’t sure, explaining that her senses were a bit off after heading a hard cross shortly before. 

“We both plead ignorance and confusion,” Kennedy said.

Lebanon High’s Ella Longacre (14) collides with Hanover’s Noor van Aalst during the NHIAA teams’ season opener Saturday at Harold R. Coburn Field. Hanover won, 1-0.

Rainey was adamant that she’d been jostled from the side as van Alst ran out from behind her and towards the center circle.

“I think it was 100 percent an accident,” Rainey said. “And it’s my job to hold onto the ball.”

Hanover held a 16-7 shot advantage but forced Rainey, a senior who’s committed to play at the University of New Hampshire, to make just four saves. 

The Raiders had only one genuine scoring chance, on a free kick play that fizzled, and spent much of the game in either their end or the midfield, but gave a strong account of themselves, nonetheless.

Hanover was 19-0 last season and is the two-time defending NHIAA Division II champion. Lebanon won three games last fall. 

“No one’s played really competitive soccer in almost a year,” Taber said. “This is really more like a scrimmage, because we didn’t have any of them this season. To play Hanover that tight under those circumstances is really encouraging.”

Kennedy was less sanguine. 

“We weren’t quite put together,” he said. “We had people who weren’t quite sure where to be and some of our passes didn’t connect. That will come in the next few weeks.”

Notes: Hanover senior goalkeeper Rebekah Rudd, in her first year at that position, played the first half and looked understandably tentative before junior Emma Kleber made two saves during the second half. She’s also a netminding rookie. Kennedy said he’s encouraging his neophyte pair to be more assertive, especially at snagging airborne or loose balls in the 6-yard box… Lebanon played the latter stages of the second half without starting fullback Kiera Hines, who departed with a bloody nose… Hanover had three corner kicks and Lebanon had two.

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Lebanon High goalkeeper Sally Rainey shouts to her teammates Saturday.