Marauders Stand Tall
Hanover Completes Unbeaten Season With Division I Title
Hanover supporters congratulate players Jonah Levine, left, and Jack Lightbody, right, following their New Hampshire Division I Championship win over Alvirne in Exeter, N.H. on November 10, 2013. Hanover won the game 2-0. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover's Asa Berolzheimer, center, heads the ball over Alvirne's Brett Richardson during their New Hampshire Division I Championship game in Exeter, N.H. on November 10, 2013. Hanover won the game 2-0. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover players congratulate teammate Xavier Tchana in front of supporters following his goal early in the second half of their New Hampshire Division I Championship game against Alvirne in Exeter, N.H. on November 10, 2013. Hanover won the game 2-0. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
When it comes to soccer, the Hanover boys have proven that size doesn’t matter.
The smallest of the 19 schools playing Division I soccer in New Hampshire, Hanover completed an unbeaten season with a 2-0 win over Alvirne in the state championship game at Exeter High School on Sunday.
Since joining the big boys two years ago, the Marauders — with a school population of 760 — have run up a 36-3-1 mark while playing schools as big as Pinkerton (3,168 students). This after a run of six straight titles in Division II, which prompted the step up.
“We were delighted with our first year in Division I,” said Hanover coach Rob Grabill, whose team lost to Manchester Central in the 2012 finals. “We snuck up on some teams and had a great run at the end.
“This year,” he said as the new season approached, “we have a great mix of senior experience and underclassmen skill and energy.”
They also had a great mix of offense and defense. The Marauders outscored their opponents by a 66-5 margin. Leading the way up front were seniors Xavier Tchana (18-8--26), Dan Hazlett (16-7--23) and Rocco Linehan (11-10--21). Other double-figure scorers included Evan Greenwald (3-7--10), Asa Berolzheimer (4-7--111) and Tomas LaPorta (1-9--10).
But as much as Hanover scored, the Marauders were actually built as a defensive unit. The play of Andrew Kazal, Luke Strohbehn, Jack Lightbody, Sam Carey and Evan Greenwald formed a near-impentrable curtain in front of goalie Alex Bynum.
“The guys who score the goals and get the assists get a lot of credit, but the defense has carried us all year and I think you saw why (in the finals),” said Hazlett. “Five goals allowed, 16 shutouts, that’s pretty awesome.”
Hanover opened the season with five straight shutouts and then ended the regular season with six straight. The only blemish on the Marauders’ ledger was a scoreless tie at Concord.
Hanover earned its No. 1 seed for the tournament and started things out with a 3-1 win over Manchester Memorial and a 4-1 win over Timberlane.
That brought a trip to Stellos Stadium in Nashua for a rematch with the Concord Crimson Tide. “They’re experienced; they’re smart; they’ve been in so many final fours,” said Grabill of the Tide. And the game proved to be another nailbiter. The difference was Jamie Dinulos’ shot off a Tchana feed in the 33rd minute — within moments of Dinulos coming into the game as a substitute.
“Jamie has been playing big-time soccer for us all year long,” said Grabill after the game. “He’s ready to play when we need him the most. ...When the moment came for him, he was ready for it.”
And so were the Marauders when they got their shot at the D-I title.
Facing Alvirne for the second time in the season, the Marauders did not let complacency enter into the mix. Dominating from the outset, Hanover outshot the Broncos, 21-9, and held a 7-2 edge in corners.
Goals by Berolzheimer in the first half and Tchana in the second half were all the Marauders needed to wrap up their 18th title overall and seventh in the past nine years.
“This is very special,” said Grabill after the game. “The best part about it is, we never talked about winning a championship during the process. It was always, ‘What can we do to play better?’
“We cared about the means, not the ends.”
They may be the smallest, but today they stand the tallest.