Hanover advances to title game with shootout victory

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2021 9:27:38 PM
Modified: 11/1/2021 9:27:41 PM

NASHUA, N.H. — Ty Nolon was just trying to stay focused.

After 100 minutes of scoreless soccer on Monday night, the Hanover High goalkeeper found himself in a shootout against Manchester Central in the NHIAA Division I semifinals at Stellos Stadium. For eight anxious rounds, Nolon, a senior, worked to block out the noise and drama and lock in on his matchup against each Manchester Central penalty taker.

“It’s all about just saving the next one,” Nolon said. “I’m just thinking about myself. I’m in my own head. I’m not worried about what’s happening with the shooters. I’m just focused on me.”

The concentration paid off. Nolon made saves on four of eight shots and was mobbed by his teammates after the final one, as No. 3 Hanover advanced to the D-I championship game with a 5-4 win in penalties over No. 2 Little Green.

Hanover (15-3-1) will make its second trip to the finals in the last three years, and its ninth overall under head coach Rob Grabill.

In Friday’s 7:30 p.m. title game at Stellos, Hanover will meet No. 1 Nashua South (18-0-1), who was victorious Monday night in the other Division I semifinal.

“It never gets old,” Grabill said. “Every year is different. The cast of characters is different, the journey is different. We’ve been down 2-0 twice this season. We’ve been down 3-0 twice. And we’ve been able to come back. These guys have a lot of heart. They have a lot of resilience. They’re not a dominant team. We’ve had our up-and-down moments. Those are the things that bond a team.”

Monday’s semifinal was a tense battle between two perennial powers.

Both Hanover and Manchester Central (16-2-1) had periods where they dominated possession, and both had scoring chances, though the defenses carried the day. Defenders on both sides thwarted multiple chances with blocks and timely steals. Each team got 10 shots off; Nolon made seven regulation saves, while Little Green senior keeper David Hood made five.

“These are two teams that work very hard. Two highly skillful teams. I thought we put on a great exhibition for the sport tonight,” Grabill said.

The game offered a measure of revenge for Hanover. The Little Green defeated Grabill’s squad 1-0 at Merriman-Branch Field in mid-October. And Hanover fell to Central in the semifinals in 2020.

Getting through to the championship game as a senior is significant for Nolon.

“It means everything,” he said. “Last year we lost in this match. We were so close. I think we deserved it last year. So it’s great to go through this year.”

Monday’s victory was well-earned, Grabill said.

“I’ve been coaching these kids since they were nine and 10 years old,” Grabill said. “I’m thrilled that they have the experience of getting to play for a state championship. And the beauty of this is that we earned four more days to be together as a team. I’m very happy for them. I thought it was a just result.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.

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