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No. 1 in Division I

Hanover Finishes Off Undefeated Season With State Title

  • Hanover's Tomas LaPorta, center, kicks the ball away from Alvirne's Ethan Beals, right, 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)

    Hanover's Tomas LaPorta, center, kicks the ball away from Alvirne's Ethan Beals, right, 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 goalie Konrad Mitchell, center, holds up a trophy plaque following the boys varsity New Hampshire Division I Championship win over Alvirne in Exeter, N.H. on November 10, 2013. Hanover won the game 2-0. Flanking Mitchell are Andrew Kazal, left, and Alex Bynum, right. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Hanover goalie Konrad Mitchell, center, holds up a trophy plaque following the boys varsity New Hampshire Division I Championship win over Alvirne in Exeter, N.H. on November 10, 2013. Hanover won the game 2-0. Flanking Mitchell are Andrew Kazal, left, and Alex Bynum, right. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover's Rocco Linehan, center, tries to beat Alvirne's Liam Regan, left, and Robert Younghusband, right, to the ball 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)

    Hanover's Rocco Linehan, center, tries to beat Alvirne's Liam Regan, left, and Robert Younghusband, right, to the ball 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's Tomas LaPorta, center, kicks the ball away from Alvirne's Ethan Beals, right, 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)
  • Hanover goalie Konrad Mitchell, center, holds up a trophy plaque following the boys varsity New Hampshire Division I Championship win over Alvirne in Exeter, N.H. on November 10, 2013. Hanover won the game 2-0. Flanking Mitchell are Andrew Kazal, left, and Alex Bynum, right. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Hanover's Rocco Linehan, center, tries to beat Alvirne's Liam Regan, left, and Robert Younghusband, right, to the ball 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)

Exeter, N.H. — The Hanover High boys soccer team is back on top.

With a 2-0 win over No. 2 Alvirne at Exeter High School’s Bill Ball Stadium Sunday night, the undefeated Marauders captured their first NHIAA Division I state championship.

Asa Berolzheimer and Xavy Tchana scored for Hanover (19-0-1), which won its 18th title overall and seventh in nine years. It’s the Marauders’ first crown since 2010, the last of six consecutive Class I/Division II crowns before petitioning to play in the larger division prior to last season.

“This is very special,” said Hanover coach Rob Grabill, whose team outscored opponents, 66-5, and earned 16 shutouts. “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.”

Hanover held a 21-9 advantage in shots and 7-2 edge in corner kicks, though the Bronocos (17-3) played much better Sunday than during a 4-0 loss at Hanover in September.

Marauder senior keeper Alex Bynum made five saves, including one diving stop, after facing just one shot in Hanover’s 1-0 semifinal win over Concord.

Alvirne had won 14 straight since its setback at Merriman-Branch Field earlier in the year.

“They were a very worthy No. 2 seed and we knew they were going to be light years better than they were in September,” Grabill said. “They tested us, and we had to play with intensity and purpose the whole game.”

Playing loose but focused, Hanover asserted itself early. Berolzheimer sent one over the cross bar before the contest was 90 seconds old, and soon after Hanover deftly thwarted consecutive Bronco corner kicks.

Hanover back Luke Strohbehn countered with a shot to the right corner, forcing one of nine saves by Alvirne keeper Liam Regan, then Rocco Linehan’s zinged one off the cross bar on a crossing pass from Tomas LaPorta.

Hanover kept the pressure going with another Linehan bid at the right post in the 20th minute, and the persistence finally paid off four minutes later.

Senior striker Daniel Hazlett fired a curve ball from the far left that might have found the back of the net even it hadn’t been for Berolzheimer’s close-range flick to make it 1-0 at 23:29.

“We came out strong, and that was something we talked about before the game,” Grabill said. “We needed to establish ourselves right away.”

Added Tchana: “All year long, we’ve been a second-half team, but we knew we had to step up in the first half tonight. We were able to play together for 80 minutes and that was huge.”

Hanover was whistled for 10 fouls in the first half, one setting up a direct kick and a Kyle Salucco header that forced a Bynum save moments after Hanover’s goal.

Bronco senior midfielder Raul Stedile sent a number of booming free kicks down field, some of which set up possible scoring chances.

“Raul played a great game for them,” said Grabill. “If one of those balls he gets down there turns into a goal, it wouldn’t matter that we had a big advantage in shots.”

The Marauders came out aggressively once more in the second half, extending their lead just 2:28 after halftime on a brilliant service from the left side from junior back Andrew Kazal. He hit Tchana’s noggin in stride for an easy goal in the right corner to make it 2-0.

Hanover went on to dominate the second half, thanks largely to steadfast defensive play from Kazal — who platooned with starter Strohbehn — as well as Jack Lightbody, Sam Carey and Evan Greenwald.

Aside from Bynum’s diving stop to rob Stedile with 6:45 to play, Alvirne’s offense was stifled by Hanover’s consistent back four.

“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 tonight,” said Hazlett. “Five goals allowed, 16 shutouts, that’s pretty awesome.”

Hazlett waved his arms several times to urge on Hanover’s large crowd down the stretch. After Bynum’s save on a header from Salucco with under two minutes to play, the “Marauder slaughter!” chant rang in from the student section.

The championship was liberating, especially for Hanover’s nine seniors, who were freshmen the last time Hanover won a state title. Some were varsity players when the Marauders were upset in the quarterfinals at home against Goffstown in their D-II swan song in 2011. Then as juniors, they were cogs in Hanover’s transition to D-I that ended with a loss to Manchester Central in the final.

Now, they’re champions.

“We did it, Hanover’s back,” said Greenwald. “You can’t say we’re a little giant anymore, because this was Division I and we gave up five goals all season.”

Free Kicks: The Marauders’ 18th championship ties them for second most in the U.S. among high school boys varsity soccer teams, according to Grabill. ... It’s Hanover’s third undefeated season since 2007, when they completed the first of back-to-back unblemished campaigns with a 1-0 win over Bow on the same Exeter High field. ... Tchana is bound for the University of Vermont men’s soccer team and led Hanover with 18 goals and eight assists this season. Hazlett (16 goals, seven assists) and Linehan (11 goals, 10 assists) were the Marauders’ other leading scorers. ... Grabill improved to 134-9-10 (.876) as Hanover’s coach.

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