Soccer kings' dominance unparalleled
There's a case to be made that the newly crowned Division I champions are the best team in Hanover's legendary boys' soccer program.
Head coach Rob Grabill is leaning toward that notion.
One thing is clear: On Sunday, when Hanover toppled Alvirne of Hudson 2-0 for the state championship at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter, the Marauders set the bar for future Hanover teams and other Division I programs.
Hanover (19-0-1) finished with 16 shutouts, 66 goals scored, five goals allowed and never trailed the entire season. Soccer historians will appreciate Hanover's 18 boys' state soccer titles as second-best in the nation, second only to Punahou School of Honolulu, Hawaii, with 19. Hanover is now tied with St. Pius X of Albequerque, N.M.
So where does this Hanover team stand in program history? Grabill, with great respect to the previous 17 champions, is cautiously leaning to this year's edition.
"I have to be careful because Hanover had consecutive 19-0-0 seasons in 1992 and 1993 under (former head coach) George Merrill," said Grabill. "What people have to remember is what this team did this year came against Division I competition. We also entered the season losing many terrific players we planned on building this team around."
Grabill mentioned Ethan Kable, who left Hanover to play in Italy, and Jonas Taenzer, who departed for Germany playing with club team Werder Bremen in Bundesliga, considered a strong Division I program. Hanover also lost many outstanding seniors from last year's state runner-up team through graduation, including Brendan Barth, a first team All-State and All-New England midfielder who now plays for Dartmouth College.
"We entered this season with huge holes to fill at the midfield position," said Grabill. "Filling those positions admirably were sophomore Asa Berolzheimer who scored in the championship game, and sophomore Jamie Dinulous, who scored the goal to beat Concord (1-0) in the semifinals."?Adding to his case, seniors Daniel Hazlett (42 goals, 25 assists), Rocco Linehan (25 goals, 24 assists) and Xavier Tchana (31 goals, 13 assists) will graduate among the top 11 scorers in program history. Hazlett stands No. 2, Linehan ninth and Tchana 11th.
Defensively, only the 2007 team allowed fewer goals, with four (the Division III Gilford boys hold the state and national record for allowing just one goal in 1999).
"The five goals allowed and the 16 shutouts are one in the same. They both speak to the same point," said Grabill. "Of the five goals we allowed, not one of them came in run of play. One was off a penalty kick and the other four were off re-starts. That's remarkable in my book."
Oh, and sportsmanlike play? Hanover drew only one yellow card the whole season.
As for Grabill, the former head soccer coach at Southern New Hampshire University (nine seasons, 113-101-7 record), he continues to add to his legacy at Hanover. In eight seasons, Grabill (134-9-1) has guided the Marauders to six state titles including five straight in Division II (2006-10) and one runner-up crown last season.
Perhaps his greatest coaching decision of the season took place with 12 minutes left on Sunday when he inserted non-starting senior Alec Murphy into the game. "He hadn't played in our previous eight games and I wanted our nine seniors on the field when the game ended," said Grabill. On a side note, brothers Luke Strohbehn and Sam Strohbehn are now champions like their father, Kris, a member of the 1977 and 1979 state title teams.
Grabill said he was hoping this season would never end. "What these kids accomplished is something we'll never forget. I'm going to miss them."