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, 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.
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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