It’s home for Hanover lacrosse ... sort of

  • Hanover's Caleb Morse tries to stay in control of the ball as Souhegan's Andrew Merenda and Luke Civiello press him during their game on Thursday, April 18, 2019 in Hanover, N.H. Souhegan won 12-3. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover's Sylas Oberting dives for the ball during a game with Souhegan on Thursday, April 18, 2019 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Justin Dyer, left, Ryan Cuddihe, and Nathan Quain of Primo Turf work on the Hanover High School turf field on Thursday, April 18, 2019 in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, April 18, 2019

HANOVER — The Hanover High boys lacrosse team staged something of a throwback Thursday when it hosted Souhegan. The Marauders played on the field where their program first grew to New Hampshire prominence, but neither the result nor the footing reflected that tradition.

Souhegan won, 12-3, benefiting from numerous Hanover turnovers and toying with the hosts’ defense. The Sabers scored on 10 of their 19 shots through three quarters, chasing Marauders goaltender Mason Winter from the NHIAA Division I contest, which was finished by Elijah Putnam. Hanover is 0-2 and has been outscored, 23-6.

“This is literally our second time on a marked, full field,” said fifth-year Marauders coach Ryan Gardner, whose team lost its opener at Exeter. “It’s nice to play a home game, but it’s obviously not the result we wanted.”

Although Gardner was excited to be playing on any location close to home, he didn’t expect his team to be competing anywhere other than Merriman-Branch Field when the school year began. That outlook was altered, however, when pressing drainage work beneath the aging artificial turf field was started late last fall.

Megan Sobel, Hanover High’s first-year athletic director, said previous plans had all the work needed to replace the artificial turf, rework the subsurface and put in new drainage being done during 2019 summer break. However, when the town of Hanover notified the school that it had manpower and equipment ready after football season, and that this might not be the case come June, the drainage work started as winter approached.

The problem? Merriman-Branch’s surface had to be peeled back along one side, and although the drainage work has been completed, the turf needs to be rolled back and glued down. That can’t happen until a decent stretch of warm, dry weather, Sobel said, and such a spell hasn’t yet occurred.

Hanover’s boys and girls varsity and junior varsity lacrosse teams have been able to practice on about two-thirds of Merriman-Branch’s surface, but games will have to be played on the grass pitch bordered by Lebanon Street and Hovey Lane until further notice. Lushly turfed during the 1980s and 1990s, that spot is currently a mismatch of grass tufts and wet clay, pockmarked by several shallow pits of mud.

No one would ever guess that former soccer coach George Merrill and onetime lacrosse bosses Jim Hunt, John Carroll and Herb Hatch built proud programs on the site, which has been used for JV contests for about the last 25 years. For now, however, it will have to do.

“We went down to Exeter not having been on a (regulation) field at all,” said Gardner, who expects the Blue Hawks will be atop the division standings with perennial powers Pinkerton and Bishop Guertin. “We cleared the ball reasonably well today but we just had too many turnovers.”

Hanover’s bright spot was undeniably junior Brendan Brigham, who won all 16 of the afternoon’s draws. Still diminutive, but even better than last year, when he had a breakout season, No. 3 was so good that Souhegan’s coaches decided early in the game not to focus on claiming the ball, but on merely stopping Brigham from igniting a fast break.

The Sabers (3-1) were lethal themselves while in transition, scoring seven times on the run and using quick feeds and hands to pick apart their opponent.

“They’re an athletic, solid team and they always have good sticks,” Gardner said. “They were more skilled than I thought they’d be, and I thought they’d be skilled.

“In the first half, in particular, we weren’t doing a great job of getting back in (front of the goal) and we were pressuring them a little bit too far upfield and giving them space behind us.”

Hanover’s goaltending situation is somewhat up in the air. Gardner said that Winter, last year’s starter, directs the defense well and sparks a strong clearing game, but that Putnam has closed the gap with his shot-stopping ability.

“I’d expect both of them to be seeing time all season,” Gardner said.

Notes: Toño Correa, Kyle Rozzi and Eli Silovich scored Hanover’s goals. … Charlie Baughman had two assists for Hanover, which took 21 shots. … The Marauders host Yarmouth (Maine) on Saturday, visit Keene on Tuesday and host Bedford three days later. … Graham Penfield, a Sharon resident, Hanover High graduate and Trinity (Conn.) College freshman, has appeared in 12 games for the Bantams (8-5). ... The Marauders won the 2007 and 2009 NHIAA Division I titles and have reached the final on two other occasions. … Gardner said his junior varsity numbers are down a bit after several potential freshmen went to prep school and others left his program because they took up crew or because their families moved. … Hanover was 7-11 last season and lost in the division quarterfinals, two years after the same record failed to qualify it for the postseason.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.