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Little things add up to a lot for Hanover boys

  • Zane Schiffman

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/15/2020 10:25:51 PM
Modified: 10/15/2020 10:28:16 PM

HANOVER — A tweak. A run. A mistake. A move. A pass. From such little things do greater things come.

The combination of a halftime adjustment and two incisive Zane Schiffman assists less than three minutes apart ultimately separated the Hanover High boys soccer team from rival Lebanon in a 2-0 victory at Merriman-Branch Field on Thursday night. Schiffman provided the assists on second-half goals from Murphy Hunt and Will Guerin as the Marauders (7-0-0) nicked the Raiders (4-2-0) for the second time this season.

“Rob and I have managed to stay very close; we text all the time, we talk all the time, it’s a great friendship,” Grabill said. “To be able to stage a game like this, in the midst of all this COVID craziness, to have a high-quality, playoff-level game … was there a better soccer game in the state tonight? I highly doubt it.”

Grabill needled Johnstone during one first-half moment for the Lebanon coach’s frequent substitutions, insinuating he was managing hockey strategy. Hanover’s subs ultimately won the day, with the help of a mid-game tactical change.

The squads played to a scoreless draw over the opening 40 minutes. The Marauders opened in 4-3-3 formation and found some purchase down the left wing, no moment closer than wing Pierce Hamlin’s point-blank blast off the left goalpost from a rolling right-wing cross in the match’s 18th minute.

Lebanon’s starting back four of John Bieszczad, Preston Hewett, Griffin Gamache and Alex Felix kept Hanover’s remaining bids at a distance from goalkeeper Ryan Tanski (four saves) the rest of the half. The Raiders put three shots on Hanover’s goal frame before the break, none of which seriously tested Marauder netminder Ty Nolon (five saves).

Lebanon’s defensive armor slowly eroded after Grabill, at halftime, moved a defender up into what he calls a 3-box-3, which is geared toward midfield control and extended pressure at the expense of the back. The little moments grew in number, and with them came a greater threat.

“Honestly, we really stepped it up at the end, which is really good,” said Schiffman, a junior wing who netted his first two points of the season. “We worked really well as a team. We had the intensity. We made some mistakes at the beginning, but Coach gave a really good halftime talk and we cleaned it up.”

A slick Schiffman move combined with a defensive miscue produced Hanover’s first goal at 67:21.

Schiffman chased down a long ball over the top of the Lebanon backfield to the right corner, drawing two defenders with him. A quick cutback shook one off and left enough room for a long cross through an open penalty area for Hunt to tap past Tanski for his first varsity goal.

Johnstone’s defenses succeed by applying pressure while making sure other options are covered. One of his backs didn’t cover the middle of the field vacated by the defender pursuing Schiffman, leaving too much space for Hunt to exploit.

“It’s the mistake that leads to the pass that leads to the goal,” Johnstone said. “I think that’s what happened on that one and on a couple of other times when they were dangerous.”

Schiffman later split the Lebanon defense with a through ball to Guerin, who drove a shot past Tanski at 70:11 to cement Hanover’s advantage.

Lebanon had its opportunities, too. Emmanuel Bello narrowly missed giving the visitors a 47th-minute edge when his free opportunity from the right wing rolled just wide of the far post. Nolon made fine back-to-back stops of Griffin Auch and Bello in the 51st minute at the top of his box, chances set up by a long, across-the-grain ball from Daniel Mladek.

Hanover’s little things eventually grew to the bigger result.

“We wanted to clamp down in midfield and put pressure on them,” Grabill said. “And it played out very well for us.”

Corner Kicks: Hanover’s goals came on back-to-back shots. … The Marauders owned a 17-9 edge in shots attempted and a 6-2 advantage in corners. … Lebanon hadn’t played a match since a 4-0 win over Fall Mountain on Oct. 5. It was also the Raiders’ second time on a field since a positive COVID-19 test at the school shut down athletic activity last Thursday. … Neither team has learned which foes will be in its regional group when the NHIAA sets up open state tournaments for all four divisions soon. The regional setup will whittle fields down to four semifinalists, who will then be matched up by a blind draw. … Lebanon hosts Kearsarge on Saturday. Hanover wraps up its regular season with a home-and-home against Keene, the first contest coming on Monday.

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

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