By Tris Wykes

LEBANON – Hanover High field hockey coach Jean Essex credited Monday’s 1-0 victory over Lebanon to repeated practice at redirecting shots with a soft touch and an angled stick.

Raiders counterpart Amanda Valliere politely wondered if a stick was even involved in the final part of the game’s scoring play.

What was ruled to be Natalie Feyer’s legal tip beat Raiders goaltender Autumn Crowell with 2 minutes, 53 seconds remaining. The netminder and her coach thought the ball caromed off Feyer’s foot and that the goal should have been disallowed.

“To lose a game like this on a play like that is unfortunate,” Valliere said. “It was a great shot and if (Feyer) got it clean, then it was a great goal.”

Lebanon High’s Sydney Gonyea finds herself between Hanover defenders Mia Edmonds, right, and Kate Blaisdell.

Essex and Valliere agreed on one thing: the NHIAA Division II contest was a well-played battle that could have gone either way. Hanover held an 8-4 shot advantage but Lebanon took 10 penalty corners to the visitors’ five. 

The goal followed a penalty corner on which Gail Morse inserted the ball to Mia Edmonds, who took the shot Feyer redirected. 

“I’m super happy with the shutout, because we let in a lot of goals at the beginning of the season,” said Essex, whose team, like Lebanon, is 6-1. “We’ve been working hard on defense. Marking up, not flinching and keeping our sticks on the ball to interrupt the shot.”

Said Valliere: “We generated a lot of opportunities and it’s frustrating that we couldn’t capitalize. (Hanover) played good defense but sometimes we looked too much for the pass. A shot at least usually gets you a rebound.”

Speaking of shots – you don’t want to get hit with one from Hanover senior Kate Blaisdell, who displays consistently powerful form. Just ask Lebanon’s Amalia Hickey, who wore a darkening bruise on one leg after getting stung by a Blaisdell bullet. 

Lebanon High coach Amanda Valliere reminds her team to use the field’s full width.

“She’s got a heck of a hit but I don’t want my kids to be afraid of the ball,” Valliere said of Blaisdell, who starred at Windham for two years before joining Hanover last fall. “She knocks it hard and it can go high, but if you’re not willing to play the ball, why are you on the field?”

Fortunately for defenders, Blaisdell doesn’t take quite as many shots these days. The Northeastern University commit was a forward at Windham and a midfielder last season, but is on defense this fall. 

“We need her there until we can get where we want as a team,” Essex said. “She’s done a great job of adjusting and helping and fitting into the back.”

Hanover returned only three starters from its 2019 state title team while Lebanon brought back eight from a squad that fell in the quarterfinals. It’s certainly conceivable the arch-rivals could meet in the playoffs later this month. Before that, however, are regular-season rematches on Oct. 14 at Hanover and Oct. 16 at Lebanon.

“Field hockey in the Upper Valley is strong,” said Essex, whose team’s lone loss came against Stevens. “We don’t need to go far to get good competition.”

Hanover High’s Jessica Lichtenstein (9) and Lebanon’s Sally Tretter watch the ball bounce away. Hanover’s Mia Edmonds (3), Gail Morse and Taylor Vittori, right, also look on.

Valliere said she’s excited for the return of games outside the region, only because that will indicate an improvement in the Covid-19 virus situation. For now, however, she’s also enjoying the schedule’s cozy feel.

“A lot of the girls know each other and it’s fun to see them compete,” Valliere said. “Plus, I don’t mind games a half hour away. I can get back and into bed by 7 p.m.”

Rest up, coach. It looks like more close games are likely.

Notes: Hanover’s Olivia Evans made one save during the first half. Her second-half replacement, Reilly Loughman, stopped three shots. Lebanon’s Crowell made four saves… Ella Edmonds, the goaltender and 2020 Hanover graduate who backstopped the Marauders to last season’s title, is helping coach the current squad. She said she’s taking one online course at Brown University… Hanover junior Jessica Lichtenstein is the daughter of Jason Lichtenstein, a Dartmouth football place kicker during the 1980s.

Hanover High field hockey coach Jean Essex addresses her team at halftime.