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A fresh start for Hanover boys lacrosse

  • Hanover’s Jack Badams (8) scores a transition goal past Alvirne goaltender Ayden Kelley (12) as defender Dom Willard (32) arrives late with the check during the second quarter of the Marauders’ 9-4 NHIAA Division II boys lacrosse win at Merriman-Branch Field in Hanover, N.H., on April 13, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover’s Angus Frew, center, wins a first-quarter draw from Alvirne’s Joey Ribeck (23) during the Marauders’ 9-4 NHIAA Division II boys lacrosse victory at Merriman-Branch Field in Hanover, N.H., on April 13, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Alvirne defenders Greg Aslanian (14) and Sam Stratton, second from right, double-team Hanover attackman Jack Badams (8) to force a second-quarter turnover during the Marauders’ 9-4 NHIAA Division II boys lacrosse victory at Merriman-Branch Field in Hanover, N.H., on April 13, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Alvirne’s Eric Allard (17) delivers a midfield check to Hanover’s Seamus Murphy, right, during the second quarter of the Marauders’ 9-4 NHIAA Division II boys lacrosse victory at Merriman-Branch Field in Hanover, N.H., on April 13, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover High boys lacrosse coach Ryan Gardner goes over halftime strategy with his team during the Marauders’ 9-4 NHIAA Division II boys lacrosse victory over Alvirne at Merriman-Branch Field in Hanover, N.H., on April 13, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 4/13/2021 9:51:47 PM
Modified: 4/13/2021 9:51:44 PM

HANOVER — The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t just rob the Hanover High boys lacrosse team of a full season last year. It led coach Ryan Gardner to hit the reset button.

For the first time in program history, the Marauders have taken a step back from their usual level of competition. With smaller rosters facing off against traditional NHIAA Division I foes filled with lacrosse specialists, Gardner saw an opportunity to start anew. The Marauders made their D-II debut a winner on Tuesday, scoring the first four goals en route to a 9-4 victory over physical Alvirne at Merriman-Branch Field.

While COVID-19 didn’t have a direct role in the decision to step down from D-I, it probably came at a nominal time. Many Marauders are slowly rediscovering their lacrosse skills, and a two-year stint in D-II will hopefully give Gardner’s bunch time to fully grow.

“We had a tremendous culture in 2019, and we’d been making tremendous strides every year of just improving that team culture,” Gardner explained. “And last year — nothing. We didn’t have a chance to do anything, so this year it’s a full reset for that reason. ...

“We were struggling more and more against programs that had more and more single-sport athletes, particularly those that were playing in the southern clubs. That made it pretty challenging for us to have the opportunity to compete in Division I against those schools that were two to three times the size. ... Most of our guys are multi-sport athletes, which fits more classically with the Division II size.”

It’s not as if Hanover wasn’t competitive at D-I. The 2019 squad went 11-4 in the regular season, earning the fifth seed and eventually dropping a 6-3 quarterfinal to No. 4 Souhegan.

Hanover had to petition every two years to stay in D-I. The smallest non-petitioning D-I school, Salem, has nearly 1,200 students; the largest, perennial powerhouse Pinkerton, is closing on 3,300. Gardner could see the numbers — his full roster counts 31 athletes this season, and the school has fewer than 750 students — and they weren’t necessarily favoring the Marauders.

“Going into this year, we didn’t know what we would have for numbers,” Gardner said. “My preliminary email list of every eighth grader from two years ago, etc., all those groups, was about 45 or so. ... In some ways, I think we’ll be able to be closer because we have smaller numbers.”

Hanover was well into preseason prep — but not official practice — when the pandemic shut down both school and sport last March. Senior attackman Sawyer Brown called the whole experience “weird.”

But when this past February rolled around, Brown found more than a few willing stickmen ready to resume.

“We got a group chat going; we came down to the turf consistently two weeks before (preseason),” said Brown, who led Hanover with three goals and two assists on Tuesday. “Some of that stickwork came back. A lot of it was missing and it is still missing now, but it feels great to be connecting those passes, making those shots. I think we’ve come a long way, even from two years ago.”

Hanover never trailed, although the Broncos (0-1) did their level best to level Marauders when they could. Seamus Murphy, Brown, Brett Simmons and Dylan Hendrick all connected in the game’s first eight minutes, the latter three unassisted.

The teamwork more commonly seen from the Marauders began to show up later on. Brown’s second goal came on a snazzy pass from Noah Fahey (two assists) midway through the second quarter. Hanover’s one transition goal was a gem, longstick Noah Bradley freeing midfielder Brendan Logan to find Jack Badams (two goals) for a quick-stick finish past busy Alvirne goalie Ayden Kelley for a 6-3 lead with 59.7 seconds left in the opening half.

Brown completed his hat trick early in the third quarter, Logan scored unassisted on a power play and Badams added his second goal late. Netminder Danny Pitiger made eight saves for Hanover.

“(We lost) dodges and a lot of stuff in transition, those quick, zipping ones,” Brown said of the missing lacrosse year. “We showed some flashes of being able to connect it from A to B and zip it around the attack and midfield, but that’s going to come in the next couple of weeks.”

Hanover is off until the first game of a home-and-home set with Lebanon on Tuesday. The two neighbors haven’t met on the lacrosse field in at least 15 years, Gardner estimated.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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