By Tris Wykes

HANOVER – Players on the Hanover High girls soccer team camped at Storrs Pond last weekend, taking the necessary Covid-19 precautions but engaging in a talent show, yoga and other bonding exercises.

The Marauders, who were undefeated last season in winning their second consecutive NHIAA Division II title, long ago established themselves as a state power. This fall, however, they face a changing of the guard after graduating nine seniors, including goalkeeper Bella Bardales, a four-year starter and second team all-state selection.

“There’s a lot of new blood,” said 13-year coach Doug Kennedy. “It’s going to be a different kind of season, in several ways.”

Hanover High senior goalkeeper Rebkah Rudd listens to instructions from 13th-year head coach Doug Kennedy during Sunday’s practice on Merriman-Branch Field. Rudd, the school’s girls ice hockey netminder, is a rookie when it comes to tending a soccer net.

Hanover, which has won five state championships since 2014, has jumped to Division I this season but will only play two division foes (Keene, Goffstown) if a truncated regular season is played as currently scheduled. Other opponents will come from the Upper Valley, and while they’ll face a Marauders team that’s rebuilding to a certain extent, that only means so much when it comes to a juggernaut program.

“The expectation is that you work really hard and that includes the summer,” said senior forward Sage McGinley-Smith, who was one of more than 40 Hanover players to practice three times a week with Kennedy during July and August. “Last year we only had a few new faces and it will be a challenge, especially with a short season, to make a team happen with this group.”

Hanover’s major question will be in goal, where Bardales is being replaced by first-year netminder Rebekah Rudd. The senior was a reserve field player before volunteering to don the keeper’s gloves. Rudd willed herself to become a standout hockey goaltender in only a few years, but the Marauders will need to limit their shots against.

Hanover suffered a blow to its back line when senior Ellie Stannard tore a knee ligament during summer club practice. That group must be rallied by returning starter and junior Elsa Bollinger, whose height is one of her main assets.

Hanover High senior Kira Smith splits a pair of teammates during Sunday’s practice at Merriman-Branch Field. Smith’s father, Kerry, played fullback for the Marauders during the 1980s.

Senior Casey McGuire, a second-team all-state honoree last fall, anchors the midfield and classmate Sonja Lippman and juniors Caroline Adams and Eleanor van Aalst are others to watch there. McGinley-Smith is back at forward along with first team all-state pick Charlotte Johnson, part of an attack that outscored 2019 opponents, 81-4.

Hanover is 59-11-7 during the past four seasons. The Marauders have won 10 state titles as a program and eight since 2000. Playing such a limited Division I schedule, however, makes the team’s chances in the playoffs almost pure guesswork.

“We have to reframe what success means this season,” McGinley-Smith said. “We’re just excited to be playing. This whole experience this past couple of months has made us so grateful for the team in itself.”

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