Hanover’s Latest Win A Real Hoot

Hanover — Just keep on rolling.

Opponent after opponent has come up against the Hanover High boys soccer this season, and yet none has emerged victorious. That old familiar story unfolded again on Sunday afternoon against an unfamiliar opponent in the NHIAA Division I quarterfinals, with eight-seeded Timberlane — a rare D-I foe not on the Marauders’ regular-season schedule — visited Merriam-Branch Field and watched as the top-ranked Marauders erupted for a pair of goals in each half to rack up a 4-1 victory.

Marauders senior Xavier Tchana finished with two goals, including the ice-breaker in the sixth minute of action. Tomas LaPorta set up the score with a long crossing pass towards the right hand side of the net. Tchana took possession, bumped it to himself and beat the Owls’ goalkeeper to put Hanover (17-0-1) in front to stay.

The visiting Owls countered Hanover’s clear speed advantage by playing a physical brand of soccer befitting the frosty early-November postseason matchup. The Marauders had momentum from the start though, rarely allowing Timberlane a chance on the Hanover side of the field in the early going. When the Owls did manage to advance the ball in the first half, they were greeted rudely by defender Sam Carey, keeper Alex Bynum and the rest of the stifling Marauder defense.

Carey, a senior co-captain, began the game with a scare in the first minute when he was hit on the hip fighting for a ball on the wing. Limping badly for a minute or two as the Marauders mounted a charge on the offensive end, Carey rallied and toughed out a complete-game effort in the backfield.

“I took a hit and thought I’d have to come out of the game for a little bit, but I walked it off a bit,” Carey said. “Everything gets numb (in the cold), so it was all right. You do what you can and play through it.”

Hanover struck again in the 19th minute as Rocco Linehan sent a crossing pass in front of the Timberlane net, where a mass a defenders and Marauder attackers awaited. The ball found junior Luke Strohbehn, who beat the keeper to put Hanover ahead 2-0.

Linehan then just missed a goal of his own, heading a shot in the 25th minute that ricocheted off the crossbar and out of play.

“I’m really pleased with our timing; we managed the game very well, kept our composure,” Hanover coach Rob Grabill said. “Our seniors were fantastic today. They carried us.”

The hard-hitting Owls spent the rest of the first half clawing back into the game. The homestanding Marauders started the second half the way it ended the first, with the ball in the back of the Timberlane net.

Hanover defender Evan Greenwald stole momentum back with a highlight goal in the first minute after halftime. Asa Berolzheimer started the action by feeding Greenwald in the far corner with the second-half kickoff. Senior co-captain Greenwald paused for a moment, then launched the ball from near the boundary line over the Timberlane defense and into the far corner of the net for the score.

Hanover upped its lead to 4-0 on Tchana’s second goal of the afternoon in the sixth minute of the second half, as LaPorta again picked up the assist. Tchana and the Timberlane keeper both appeared to lose the ball in the setting sun as an arcing pass came in front of the Owls’ goal, but Tchana struck a lofting header over the keeper’s reach and into the back of the net.

“I was pleased we were able to re-establish ourselves and take control of the game,” Grabill said of his team’s fast start out of the break.

Benjamin Ennis scored the only Timberlane goal off a corner in the 12th minute of the second half, assisted by Nicholas Gibbs. The Owls ramped up their efforts after falling behind by four goals but to no avail. Carey and the Hanover defenders did their jobs in holding the visitors in check.

“Props to them for giving it their all, playing physical, going for our ankles and things like that,” Carey said. “They played hard, but we play quicker.”

Hanover’s road ahead features a rematch in the semifinals with No. 4 Concord, which beat Exeter 2-0 on Sunday. The Marauders and Crimson Tide — who provided the only blemish on Hanover’s record in a 0-0 draw on Oct. 17 — play for a place in the state title game on Thursday on 6 p.m. at Stellos Stadium in Nashua.

“I’m thrilled,” Grabill said. “We don’t set specific goals like to reach the semifinals. We talk about wanting to do well enough to give ourselves the chance. It’s everything you can hope for to be in the company of the other teams in the top four.”

Corner Kicks: Bynum faced only two shots on goal, making one save for Hanover. … Tchana now has 17 goals on the season to lead the Marauders, one more than senior teammate Daniel Hazlett. … Linehan now has 11 goals and 11 assists in his senior campaign. … Hanover has now outscored its opponents 63-5 with 14 shutouts on the season. … No. 3 Manchester Central faces No. 2 Alvirne in the other semifinal matchup at 4 p.m., also at Stellos. … Hanover capped its first season in D-I last year with a 2-1 loss to Manchester Central in the championship game as Central claimed its third title in the last four seasons.