Hanover boys soccer outworks rivals in semifinal

Hanover High's Ian Press (16) defends against Manchester Central's Martino Cueto (21) during the NHIAA Division I teams' playoff semifinal on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Hanover won, 2-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High's Ian Press (16) defends against Manchester Central's Martino Cueto (21) during the NHIAA Division I teams' playoff semifinal on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Hanover won, 2-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Hanover High's Ryder Hayes, right turns upfield against Manchester Central during the NHIAA Division I playoff semifinals on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Hanover won, 2-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High's Ryder Hayes, right turns upfield against Manchester Central during the NHIAA Division I playoff semifinals on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Hanover won, 2-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Hanover HIgh's Sam Calderwood (5) plays the ball in front of Manchester Central's Celestin Buloze (7) during the NHIAA Division I teams' playoff semifinal on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover HIgh's Sam Calderwood (5) plays the ball in front of Manchester Central's Celestin Buloze (7) during the NHIAA Division I teams' playoff semifinal on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Hanover High boys soccer head coach Rob Grabill, center, watches his NHIAA Division I team play Manchester Central in the playoff semifinals on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Assistant coach Ben Snyder, left, and associate head coach Sam Farnham flak Grabill, whose team won, 2-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hanover High boys soccer head coach Rob Grabill, center, watches his NHIAA Division I team play Manchester Central in the playoff semifinals on Oct. 30, 2023, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Assistant coach Ben Snyder, left, and associate head coach Sam Farnham flak Grabill, whose team won, 2-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Zach Tracy

Zach Tracy valley news — Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 11-01-2023 10:00 AM

NASHUA, N.H. — Many of those on the Hanover High boys soccer sidelines Monday at Stellos Stadium wore puffer jackets emblazoned with their uniform number and the Bears logo. The outerwear and the team’s 2-0 defeat of Manchester Central in an NHIAA Division I playoff semifinal left members of the top-seeded squad warm and cozy on a chilly, rainy night.

Midfielder Zach Tracy, who began his futbol journey a decade ago on the playground of Norwich’s Marion Cross School, scored twice and was the best player in a game loaded with talent. The fourth-seeded Little Green won the teams’ regular-season meeting in Hanover on Oct. 12, but the Bears were absent two starters that day.

Hanover was similarly shorthanded during its only other loss, coach Rob Grabill said. That was to Bedford on Sept. 1. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs (11-5) will oppose the Bears in Friday’s championship match.

Tracy was everywhere Monday, engaging in physical battles, laying off beautiful passes and hustling on defense. The senior is also an accomplished downhill skier, and his athleticism showed.

“He was angry at being taken off the field to get a rest,” Grabill said with a laugh.

Hanover (17-2-0), which lost in last year’s final, opened the scoring during the 32nd minute. Energetic wing Will Guerin took a feed from his central midfielder twin, Carter, and got off an unlikely left-footed cross from deep in the left corner.

The ball whizzed through the penalty area’s lower confines. Tracy, racing into the box, slammed it home in stride, the resound thump indicating he’d gotten full contact on the shot.

“We’ve worked on that all year,” Tracy said. “Those one-time balls across.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

The Guerins might be small, but they’re fierce competitors who run as hard on defense as they do on the attack. Their willingness to absorb physical punishment without petulance is a team-wide characteristic and unsung strength.

“We’ve worked hard to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, with discipline and structure,” Tracy said. “We all demand that level of focus from each other.”

The Bears doubled their lead six minutes after halftime. Andrew McGuire found a sprinting Tracy up the middle for a through ball, the Bear splitting defenders on both sides and racing in alone on goalkeeper Sam O’Toole, whom he beat with a low, left-footed shot inside the right post.

“I had five yards of space, and that’s all I need to put it in the back of the net,” Tracy said.

Manchester Central (14-5-0), which also fell in the semifinals last season, clearly had talent but not much fire. The Little Green has long been known for its passionate competition but appeared listless most of the night. First-year coach Maid Ahmic, only the program’s second leader in 25 years, showed more energy than many of his troops.

Grabill labled his team’s effort “businesslike,” but don’t mistake that for a lack of intensity. The Bears are clinical in their positioning, passing, attack and defense, but what might appear to be a lack of flair is instead intense concentration.

“We didn’t play the score,” Grabill said. “We played smart defense and kept on attacking, right to the end. We have 12 seniors and a lot of maturity,”

Notes: Tracy has 25 goals this season, second only in program history to the 34 put up during 1965 by Bobby Dow. … Hanover’s 93 goals this season are the most of any squad in program history, overtaking the previous record of 92 put up by that 1965 side, which went 13-3-0 and reached the playoff semifinals. … Carter Guerin’s assist, his 21st of the season, pushed him to the top of the Hanover season-record mark in that category. … Attendance was dismal, at perhaps 100 spectators. … All but about 20 minutes of the contest was played in steady rain, and Grabill became agitated when pregame player introductions dragged on interminably. “Let’s leave them out there longer to get even more wet and cold,” the veteran bench boss hollered. … Ahmic, a 31-year old Bosnian native, succeeded Chris LaBerge, who led Manchester Central to three state titles and four second-place finishes. The Little Green is 27-10-1 the past two seasons.

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