By Tris Wykes
HANOVER – On the shootout went. Five rounds at first, then 10. When the figurative dust settled at Merriman-Branch Field on Thursday evening, the Hanover High girls soccer team had been eliminated from the NHIAA Division I playoffs, losing a scoreless semifinal to Windham, 13-12, on penalty kicks.
Jaguars goalkeeper Jess Thibodeau dove to her left to deny Hanover’s Elsa Bolinger to start the shootout’s 14th round. When Windham’s Abby Irwin beat Marauders netminder Rebekah Rudd to the same spot not long after, the visitors advanced to Sunday’s final at Exeter (13-0).
“It just kept going,” said Hanover senior Charlotte Johnson, who knocked in a pair of penalty kicks. “You’ve gotta breath and if someone misses, you have to believe in your goalie. Rebekah really rose to the challenge this year. It’s a tough position for her to be in.”
Rudd, a senior but a rookie backstop, made several nice saves during field play and sprawled to her right to stop one of Windham’s penalty kicks. Hanover, Division II champions in 2018 and 2019, moved up a level for this season but only played one Division I opponent during the regular season because of Covid-19 restrictions.
“It’s our first year in Division I and we made it to the semifinals and PKs; I think that’s outstanding,” Johnson said. “We never even expected to have a season. We obviously wanted to go to the finals, but I’m happy with our team. We were amazing this year.”
The opponents swung momentum back and forth, with Windham (5-4-2) controlling much of the first half but Hanover making a push just before intermission. A Johnson shot seven minutes before the break bounced down off the crossbar and was cleared by a Jaguars defender – off the right post and away.
“That just kind of sums up the game, right there,” said Johnson, who watched teammate Noor van Aalst hit a post two minutes later. “We just couldn’t finish tonight.”
Windham substituted more liberally during the game and Hanover coach Doug Kennedy said his 9-1-1 team tired as play stretched on. That might have been a factor when the Marauders had four throw-ins deep in enemy territory late in the second, 10-minute overtime. However, the hosts couldn’t create scoring chances.
“The whole game was so hard-fought with very good players doing their best, but being unable to score,” said Kennedy, who had his team regularly practice penalty shots. “We all try it and see who’s the coolest. Who can put it in the same spot and doesn’t crack when we’re laughing at them from behind.”
Hanover’s shooters for the first round were Casey McGuire, Sage McGinley-Smith, Johnson, Bollinger and Caroline Adams. McGuire’s shot went off the post and Rudd’s stop of Lauren Brooks left the teams deadlocked.
That meant a different five shooters participated in a second round and the Marauders sent out Danielle Rudd, van Aalst, Izzy Kachikas, Mia Madden and Katie Stannard. All scored except Stannard, but the Jaguars’ Katie Burzlaff shot over the net on their next attempt, extending the shootout even further.
McGuire, McGinley-Smith and Johnson each scored again before Bolinger was stymied and Irwin ended the game.
“Once you get here you want to go to the next step, but yes, in retrospect… we got this far and we beat a few Division I teams along the way,” Kennedy said. “We know we can play at this level.”
Notes: Johnson has committed to play at Maine’s Colby College next season. The Mules compete at the NCAA Division III level and in the New England Small College Athletic Conference… Linesman Blake Colter said the match was the best he’s ever officiated and referee Eddie Currier of Pembroke said the shootout was the longest he’s experienced during 16 years in the profession. Kennedy said he’s never been involved in a shootout that went past 10 shooters… Kachikas participated in the shootout despite not having played on the field.
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