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WHS Misses Winning Feeling

After 8-0-1 Start, Engineers Seek Spark

Woodsville's Derek Maccini (10) and David Bazzell (6) celebrate after the first Woodsville goal is scored during the Littleton at Woodsville boys soccer game at Woodsville High School in Woodsville, N.H., on Oct. 1, 2013. Woodsville won, 2-0. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Woodsville's Derek Maccini (10) and David Bazzell (6) celebrate after the first Woodsville goal is scored during the Littleton at Woodsville boys soccer game at Woodsville High School in Woodsville, N.H., on Oct. 1, 2013. Woodsville won, 2-0. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

Woodsville — The Woodsville High boys soccer team is hoping its second-half performance against Gorham on Friday won’t be indicative of what to expect during the second half of its season.

Playing the Huskies to a 1-1 tie through the first half, the Engineers (8-1-1) surrendered four second-half goals for a 4-1 home loss and their first setback of the season.

After outscoring opponents 34-7 through its first eight games — including a road win at Gorham (6-3) and several other quality victories — Woodsville has struggled with possession and communication over the last two matches. The Engineers needed two late goals to eke out a 2-0 win over Littleton (2-7-1) at home on Tuesday, then had their worst outing of the year in a three-goal loss to the Huskies.

“We’re not passing the way we were in earlier games, and we’re not talking (to each other),” said 37th-year Woodsville coach Mike Ackerman. “We’re not getting to the ball like we should be.”

The troubles come following Woodsville’s most dominant stretch of the season, outscoring Pittsburg-Canaan a combined 12-1 in a home-and-home against the winless Panthers before trouncing two-win Hinsdale on the road Sept. 28, 9-1.

“We might have gotten a little bit overconfident after that,” said Ackerman. “For some reason, we’re playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”

Woodsville certainly played to win during the first month of the season, prevailing by an average score of 5-1. The only time the Engineers didn’t come away a winner during their first eight games was during a weather-shortened 1-1 tie against rival Lisbon (3-2-4) in mid-September. Woodsville’s 7-0-1 start included victories over winning programs Gorham and Profile (4-3-2).

Junior David Bazzell was a major catalyst during the hot start, registering 12 goals and six assists to lead the Upper Valley in points.

Bazzell — the younger brother of former 100-goal scorer Janet Bazzell, as well as former defensive specialist Katie Bazzell — insists he didn’t learn any tricks from his older sisters.

“They were too mean to let me play with them,” Bazzell joked following the Littleton game. “I mostly learned on my own just by playing a lot.”

A native of Tallahassee, Fla., Bazzell has been played competitively since he was 5 and still living in the Sunshine State. After netting just three goals as a sophomore, Bazzell has scored at least once in seven of Woodsville’s nine games, including a nine-goal burst in five games from Sept. 14-Oct. 1.

“David is much more aggressive this season,” said Ackerman. “He’s taking on defenders and going for the shot, whereas in previous years he might have tried to force a pass that wasn’t there.”

Bazzell has had plenty of help. Thirteen of Woodsville’s 17 players have at least one goal or assist, including nine goals and three assists from fellow striker Mike Dennis, as well as three goals and three assists from midfielder Jaret Bemis.

Dennis and Bemis are two of five sophomore starters for the Engineers, all of whom were part of a 14-player freshman class on last year’s junior varsity team coached by Ackerman.

“It was kind of a tough situation last year because we had all of these freshmen who weren’t ready for varsity yet, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a JV coach,” Ackerman recounted. “I ended up working with the JV team a lot, and (assistant coach) Steve Loud worked with the varsity when I couldn’t be there.

“It kind of hurt the (varsity team’s continuity) for me not to be there all the time, but the JV team played 16 games and that helped them get some playing time, whereas if we didn’t have JV they probably wouldn’t have played all that much.”

The Engineers’ varsity team, meanwhile, upset Profile in the first round of the NHIAA Division IV state tournament before a 2-0 quarterfinal loss at eventual champion Derryfield.

This year, Woodsville has been bolstered by lanky senior goalie Tom D’Angelo (three shutouts) and defenders Derek Maccini (two goals, six assists), Mike Lloyd, Jason Fullerton and Ty Brown.

Sophomore Chris Sarkis (three goals, two assists) mans center midfield, flanked by Bemis and junior Jaime LoCascio (four assists). Bazzell is joined on the front line by Dennis and Dan Roy, a senior who recently returned from injury after scoring three goals in three games to start the year.

“We’ve been doing a good job spreading the field this year,” Roy said. “When we’re able to control the ball, we do a good job setting each other up and putting each other in position to score.”

After the hiccup against Gorham, the Engineers are hoping to return to form for the stretch run. They’ll be tested at Profile today, the first of a four-game road trip that culminates at Lisbon on Oct. 17.

Woodsville won’t see the likes of fellow once-beatens Wilton-Lyndeborough (8-1-0) or Derryfield (9-1-0) until the postseason. Ackerman hopes his team will be ready.

“The competition is only going to get tougher,” the coach said. “We’ve got to get back to the things that helped us earlier in the year.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.