Ian Clark's Corner Kicks: Hanover boys are on a roll
A STRONG crew of seniors has placed the Hanover boys' soccer team in solid position heading into the playoffs.
The Marauders have locked up the top seed in Division I with a record of 14-0-1 entering today's regular season finale at home against Bishop Guertin of Nashua.
Hanover, which is ranked No. 5 in the region in the latest National Coaches Poll, boasts nine seniors.
“My seniors are really providing all kinds of leadership and the three that grab your attention are the three up top: Dan Hazlett, Rocco Linehan and Xavier Tchana,” said Rob Grabill, now in his eighth season as head coach.
Hazlett leads the team with 14 goals and five assists. Linehan has 10 goals and eight assists and Tchana has 12 goals and five assists.
“It really is a three-pronged attack. They work very well with each other and they play for each other,” Grabill said. “There is no sense that one is the alpha dog and needs to get fed. There's not much ego involved. Because of the way they train and practice, they lift everyone else on the team. We're enjoying them while we have.”
Most teams would love to have one go-to player up front. Good luck stopping three of them if you're the Hanover opposition.
“You can't close down any one guy,” Grabill said. “They also move very freely in the attacking zone. They have a good sense of when and how to do this.”
Another senior, goalkepper Alex Bynum, has 10 shutouts for the season.
The runner-up a season ago after losing to Manchester Central in the finals, Hanover has been tested over the past week. Concord earned a 0-0 draw with Hanover and Exeter pushed the Marauders to the limit in a 1-0 Hanover win.
Grabill wouldn't have it any other way.
“It's perfect. It's just what the doctor ordered to play two of the top five teams back-to-back right before the playoffs,” Grabill said. “We emerged relatively unscathed.”
Central has secured the No. 2 seed, meaning the Little Green and Hanover would not meet until the finals. Hanover won a 2-0 game early in the season, but since then, Central (13-2) has won 13 straight.
“We're not heartbroken that we're in a different half of the bracket than Central. I can promise you that they do not fear us,” Grabill said. “We beat them in the regular season last year and it didn't do us much good in the playoffs.”
The Division I playoffs open a week from today. Top five boys' teams: No. 1 Hanover. No. 2 Manchester Central (13-2). No. 3 Alvirne (12-2). No. 4 Windham (14-1 to lead Division II). No. 5 Tie: Concord (11-2-2) and Hopkinton (14-0-1 to lead Division III). How fun would it be to see these neighboring teams meet?
Honorable mentions: Hollis/Brookline (13-2 in Division II), Bow (14-1-1 in Division III), Woodsville (13-1-1 to lead Division IV). Top five girls' teams: No. 1 Exeter (15-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation). No. 2 Windham (14-0-2 to lead DII). No. 3 Portsmouth (14-1 in DII). No. 4 Pinkerton (13-2-1). No. 5 Bow (15-0 to lead Division III).
Honorable mentions: Woodsville (13-0-1 in Division IV), Derryfield (13-1-0 in Division IV), Bedford (11-2-2).
Ian Clark's Corner Kicks appears every Thursday in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Coaches can email notes, stats and milestones to firstname.lastname@example.org.