By Tris Wykes
BOW, N.H. – The Lebanon High boys soccer team seized early control of Saturday morning’s NHIAA Division II quarterfinal here. The Raiders couldn’t maintain their grip, however, the lead and the contest slipping through their hands in a 3-1 loss.
Aidan Yates fired in the rebound of his own shot in the seventh minute, an assist going to Daniel Mladek. The Falcons’ John Salerno equalized 10 minutes before intermission when he found the ball on the ground first after going up for a header with defender Preston Hewett on the right side of the penalty area. Salerno beat goalkeeper Ryan Tanski low and to the far post.
Lebanon coach Rob Johnstone said his team cleared the ball, but only so far. Combined with the defense’s slow reaction at pulling upfield, the Raiders were vulnerable. It’s a type of play the visitors experienced twice earlier this season against Hanover.
“We relieved the initial pressure but then (Bow) didn’t have to react to us because we were still parked in our end,” Johnstone said. “That’s on me as the coach. I have to prepare them better. Very disappointing.”
Bow’s Noah Leuchtenberger gave his team a 2-1 lead with 12 minutes to play, receiving a pass and scoring from the middle of the box without a defender near him. Lebanon (7-3-1) protested bitterly that the Falcons had dribbled out of bounds along the sideline moments earlier.
Second-half goalkeeper Colbie Delisle surrendered the final score seven minutes later and also by Leuchtenberger, after a scramble in front. That sequence began with a Bow free kick on a foul that again left the visitors’ bench howling.
“We had the ball the whole second half, but so many goals come from incomplete clearances,” Johnstone said. “We get the ball back upfield 25 or 30 yards and then it comes right back in. By then, the dominos have fallen and we’re scrambling and out of position and there are guys wide open.”
Lebanon competed without injured fullback Jake Kriplin and two of its top scorers hobbled. Senior striker Emmanuel Bello entered the match nursing a leg injury and Ryan Oliveira on a bum ankle. That unlucky joint took another direct hit midway through Saturday’s contest and swelled, but the junior midfielder had it taped and limped the rest of the way.
“We had plenty of good players ready and everybody at this time of year has people banged up,” said Lebanon coach Rob Johnstone. “What a battler Ryan is, though. His ankle has been giant the last week.”
Bow (5-0-3), held a 6-4 shot advantage but took only two of the game’s nine corner kicks. The Falcons, who defeated Stevens, 1-0, in the playoffs’ preliminary round, advance to face the winner of Sunday’s game between Hollis-Brookline and Souhegan.
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