By Tris Wykes
HANOVER – A small, folding table stood atop the hill overlooking Merriman-Branch Field on Saturday. Spread across its surface were Klondike ice cream bars for boys soccer players from Hanover High and Mascoma who had just finished their NHIAA match.
It was the sweetest part of the afternoon for the visiting Royals, a Division III team which absorbed a 4-1 loss to the defending Division I champions. Despite her team taking only five of the game’s 34 shots and two of its 13 corner kicks, third-year Mascoma coach Keli Green departed upbeat.
“This is a two-division step up for us and I’m really proud of my guys,” said Green, whose team reached last year’s state semifinals. “We’re happy to hold them as much as we did, and we learned a lot from playing them.”
The score would have been more lopsided if not for Mascoma goalkeeper Connor Thompson, a second-year starter. The senior made an astonishing, diving save to rob Hanover’s Evan Nichols of a head-shot goal off a corner kick and had several other notable stops.
Mascoma junior Ben Seiler, a striker much touted of late for pushing his career goals total past 50, was held to one shot on frame, although he did put home a penalty kick. Green felt her midfield played well, but the Royals (4-2) couldn’t consistently get passes to Seiler, who also took a pounding when he leapt to play balls in the air.
“In the second half, there were a couple of 50-50 balls where I thought Ben was getting unfairly sandwiched and I asked the ref to keep an eye on that,” Green said. “It’s easy to take him out of the game when you have a whole backfield of talented players to take him out.”
Green said moving Seiler to midfield wouldn’t have solved the problem, noting that her team was in unfamiliar surroundings and played with a defensive mindset.
“We’ve tried that in the past but we leave him out there the entire game and you can’t play a whole game in the midfield,” she said. “It was an exhausting game for us because we’re not used to the width of the field and the pace of play on the (artificial) turf.”
Henry Aspinwall staked Hanover to a 1-0 lead during the 17th minute off a Pierce Hamlin assist. The senior striker sprinted up the left wing, then slowed to take measure of Thompson and the net. He scored on a low, long shot placed precisely inside the far post.
Seiler produced a 1-1 tie five minutes after Aspinwall’s strike. The Marauders took the lead for good two minutes later when Nathan Subrahmanian leapt and headed in a Dylan Kotlowitz corner kick.
Hamlin, one of several Hanover seniors called up from the junior varsity for Senior Day, gave the hosts a 3-1 advantage three minutes after halftime. He dribbled across the penalty area from left to right before snapping the ball high inside the near post. Eric Ringer’s penalty shot closed the scoring with 12 minutes to play.
Mascoma is at Sunapee on Monday. The Marauders (6-0) are scheduled to visit arch-rival Lebanon on Tuesday.
Notes: Green is also a middle school math teacher who was previously the Royals’ assistant coach… Hanover committed 20 of the match’s 29 fouls… Thompson made eight saves… Jeremy Coltor was one of the game’s two referees. He is a 33-year old former Special Olympics participant who also officiates basketball and has done so at the Special Olympics World Games and the women’s NCAA Division III levels. Colter was born with cerebral palsy.
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