Last season the Hanover High boys soccer team moved up from Division II to D-I following a run of 6 championships in 7 years. And despite having half the enrollment size of the other schools in D-I, they still made it all the way to the finals before falling to defending champs Manchester Central 2-1. This year though they are determined to bring their first D-I title back home to the Upper Valley. The Marauders are undefeated (14-0-1) with just one game left in the regular season. They end the season later today when they host Bishop Guertin, who is just 1-14 on the year. How have they done it?
"The short answer is chemistry" said Hanover boys soccer head coach Robert Grabill. "We have a bunch of seniors who are amazing leaders. Three starting strikers who each have ten goals. They all play for each other. Three great senior defenders, and a great senior goalie (Alex Bynum)."
Hanover has already beaten defending champs Central earlier in the season 2-0 in a rematch of last year's title game. The Marauders are currently ranked 6th in the NSCAA New England Regional Rankings (www,nscaa.com), and is the only NH team ranked. They have outscored the opposition 51-3 in 15 games, and have a whopping 13 shutouts. They have done it all despite losing many key players off last year's D-I runners-up squad.
"The team is held together by a completely rebuilt midfield" Coach Grabill explained. "We lost seven starters from last year. Then our two best returning juniors, easily among our most talented players, both got better offers. One is in Italy (Ethan Kable), training with a high-level junior team and going to school over there. Amazing opportunity. The other (Jonas Taenzer), who is certainly the best player in all of NH, spent 5 weeks in Germany this summer, and was offered a junior contract with Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. He is playing with Seacoast, and will join the U19 team for a top-level German club next summer."
The loss of these players has thrust several inexperienced players into important roles, and they have flourished.
"It has pulled us all together" said Grabill, who has over 100 career wins. "We play so patiently, so unselfishly.Our starting goalie is senior Alex Bynum a first-year starter). Our three starting senior backs are Captain Sam Carey and Evan Greenwald, and Jack Lightbody. Our starting midfield are senior Tomas LaPorta (first year as a starter), and sophomores Asa Berolzheimer and Jonah Levine. Those are the three who have really stepped up. They are replacing Brendan Barth, who is now playing for Dartmouth, and the two juniors transfers."
With one game left in the regular season, Hanover is alone at the top of the standings. ooming close behind though are Alvirne, Central and Concord, who all have just 2 losses apiece.
"Of all the teams in D-I, the one that is the most dangerous is certainly Central. They lost their first two games (we beat them 2-0 in Hanover), and have won 13 in a row. They are very dangerous. They are the defending champs, and have won 3 of the last 4, and are scared of no one. They are dying to play us. We are dying to play them, after losing 2-1 in the finals last year. They have the second seed locked up. So we may well meet in the finals."
So there you have it. They're half the size of the other schools in D-I, yet Hanover is alone at the top of the D-I standings and is the favorite to win the title. Not bat at all, especially considering the talented players they lost from last year's team. Coach Grabill and his squad are deserving of credit, and recognition not just in the Upper Valley but all across the state.
"We are proud that our program has produced players who have been recruited to play high level European soccer, and proud that we have the depth to replace them and compete on such a high level in NH Division One" concluded Coach Grabill. "We are by far the smallest team in Division one, with an enrollment of 770 students. We love playing schools two, three and four times larger. The jump to Division One has been so good for us. Our JV is 13-2 (beat Exeter recently 6-2). Freshman team is 8-4. Playing at this level has made us all better. We love the competition."