Defending champs end season for Royals boys soccer

  • Mascoma High boys soccer coach Keli Green lays out cones for warmups prior to the Royals' NHIAA Division III boys soccer semifinal with Campbell in Laconia, N.H., on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Valley News — Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mascoma High goalkeeper Connor Thompson (33) goes through his pregame paces with assistant coach Stephen Stebbins, right, prior to the Royals' NHIAA Division III boys soccer semifinal with Campbell in Laconia, N.H., on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Valley News — Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mascoma High's Cameron Stebbins (10) passes the ball past Campbell's Jacob Oberto (3) during the first half of their NHIAA Division III boys soccer semifinal match in Laconia, N.H.,. on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Valley News — Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 11/7/2019 9:58:56 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 9:58:45 PM

LACONIA, N.H. — Say this for Mascoma High boys soccer: The future looks bright, even if the present is over.

Defending state champion Campbell produced a pair of quality first-half goals and used airtight defense from there to end the Royals’ season in a 2-0 NHIAA Division III semifinal at Laconia High School’s Jim Fitzgerald Field on Wednesday night. The top-ranked Cougars, who won the first state crown in their school’s short history in a penalty-kick shootout over Trinity last year, will hope for something more conventional in Sunday’s final against No. 3 Mascenic.

The fifth-ranked Royals, meanwhile, can look toward promising things down the road. Mascoma had never traveled as deeply into an NHIAA soccer tournament before, and the bulk of the team that did it this time will return for another try in 2020.

“They are very fast; they are relentless, that’s a great word for it,” Mascoma coach Keli Green said of the Cougars. “They’re a very skilled team. They’re No. 1 in the state for a reason.”

The Royals (13-5-1) didn’t play like semifinal debutantes, even as Campbell (17-0-2) announced its intention to pressure as much as possible.

Mascoma goalkeeper Connor Thompson began an active first half by punching away a long first-minute throw from the right flank from Cougar back Ryan Latsha. Three minutes later, the Mascoma defense left Joaquin Heller free for an 8-yard header following a free-kick service, but Thompson (eight saves) lunged to his right to parry the shot wide.

The Royals owned all three first-half corner kicks and had their best threat with the middle one. Latsha cleared out a ninth-minute delivery from the right, but the ricochet found sophomore Ben Seiler — the Royals’ 32-goal machine — for a 19-yard drive from the top of the box that sailed over Campbell goalie Jack Noury and the crossbar.

The Cougars delivered two class finishes shortly thereafter.

A David Latsha cross from the right wing led to Heller’s opening goal at 11:02.

Thompson got a hand on the service, but the rebound landed in the lap of Heller, who settled the ball and roofed a shot from point-blank range over the leaping Mascoma netminder.

Samuel Gomes delivered a cheeky second goal at 20:54. Overlapping back Tyler St. Onge drove to the goal line right and lined a cross that Gomes flicked with his right heel behind his left leg, a roller that Thompson had no chance to stop.

“At this point, any team can come to the final four,” Heller said. “We just stick together. We know we’ve got that mission, and we’re working on it.”

Content with the two-goal cushion, Campbell kept eight and nine players behind the ball through the second 40 minutes, daring Mascoma to set something up.

Right back Dylan Pelton came up twice for long-distance free kicks. A bid from midfield in the 50th minute went right into the arms of Noury. A second opportunity five minutes later, this time from 30 yards, sailed wide left of the Campbell net.

The Royals nearly dented the Cougars’ net in the final minutes. After the Campbell defense headed out a low Pelton cross out of the goalmouth, Mascoma midfielder Isaac Rayno stepped into a 20-yard volley that a teammate popped up and Noury (three saves) gathered out of the air.

Finer skills may have ultimately lacked for the Royals on this night. Effort and belief didn’t. And that bodes well for Mascoma’s soccer future.

“They really wanted it,” Green said. “We just couldn’t seem to get the ball to bounce our way.”

Corner Kicks: Mascenic advanced in the opening match, beating No. 7 Hopkinton on penalty kicks, 3-2, following a 1-1 draw. Goalkeeper Chris Wilkins made one save in the tiebreaker and scored the winning kick in the final round for the Vikings, who were down, 2-1, entering the fourth round of the five-round decider. … One fan attending the Hopkinton-Mascenic opener came dressed in a hot dog costume. … Game-time temperature for the nightcap was 40 degrees. … The Royals graduate six: Ben Schwarz, Dylan Pelton, Liam Hemmerling, Olivia Bean, Carter Putnam and Hunter Cadwell.

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




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