Eric Emmerling's Corner Kicks: A mix of everything
Eight girls' divisional semifinals take place around the state tonight with boys' final four matchups scheduled for Thursday, setting the stage for this weekend's eight championship matches taking place at Larkin Field on the Southern New Hampshire University campus.
Thus far this season, defending girls' Division III champion Bow (17-0-1) has surrendered just two goals. The undefeated Falcons shut out their first 10 foes before settling for a 1-1 tie with Bishop Brady of Concord. They posted two more shutouts before defeating Campbell of Litchfield - the 2011 runner up - 2-1, and haven't allowed a goal since.
Punahou School of Honolulu, Hawaii, owns the girls' national record for fewest goals allowed in a season, shutting out all 13 opponents in 2004. Four schools, including Hanover (2001), allowed just one tally during an entire season. Goalie Rachel Barr, who went on to play soccer and hockey at Williams College, led the Marauders' defense that season. Souhegan of Amherst scored the lone goal.
"In general, the whole team has embraced defending the net," said Bow coach Jay Vogt, who rotates seven defenders in and out of the game. Senior captains Jane Levin and Byrie Forey, both backs, lead the defensive stand, with talented sophomore keeper Janna Corsetti blanking 16 clubs thus far.
The defense initiates many offensive attacks. Accurate passes from backs begin counter attacks. They also come forward and participate in possession-oriented strikes. With Sarah Carlson leading the scoring, Bow has outscored the opposition, 60-2.
The Falcons are one game away from securing a third straight ticket to the title game. They face fourth-seeded Raymond (13-5) in tonight's 5 p.m. semifinal at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter. The Rams have won five straight since a 3-0 loss to Bow a few weeks back.
Oyster River of Durham, the top-seeded Division II team, has allowed just six goals thus far this season. The Bobcats (16-2) face No. 4 Milford (14-3-1) tonight at Stellos Stadium. The Spartans are riding an 11-game win streak, scoring 39 goals while conceding seven in that stretch.
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DIVISION II CINDERELLAS: When the St. Thomas of Dover boys claimed the 13th seed in the Division II tourney, school officials figured there was no way the Saints (8-7-3) would play host for another game this season and packed away the goals and team benches.
And then, all six first-round tourney games (the top two seeds drew byes) were upsets. St. Thomas, with a 2-1 win over No. 5 Trinity of Manchester, played host to No. 13 Plymouth in the quarterfinal round. The Saints won, earning a trip to the semifinals to face top-seeded Hollis/Brookline (13-1-3).
Bryan King tallied the first goal in both tourney victories and has three postseason goals overall. Simon Smith scored the game winner against Trinity. It was his first-ever varsity tally.
In fact, the Saints were the only team to defeat the Cavaliers during the regular season. Top-seeded Hollis/Brookline's won eight straight since the loss, outscoring the opposition 27-5.
Fourteenth-seeded John Stark of Weare (9-9) also advanced to the semifinal and will dance with No. 2 Windham for the first time this season tomorrow at Nashua's Stellos Stadium.
"I'm a little surprised with our run, but we've been building momentum over the past couple of weeks," said John Stark coach Jeff Vogt. The Generals had to beat Lebanon, Pembroke and ConVal of Peterborough on the road just to qualify for the tourney.
Josh Morin's tallied three overtime goals this season, including the golden goal in a double-overtime quarterfinal win over Oyster River. Serge Boucher has contributed some clutch shots while keeper Mike Prindiville has been miserly in net.
Division II was, by far, the most competitive division during the regular season. Forty-six percent of the games were settled by one-goal margins and 18 ended in a tie.
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DEFENDING CHAMPS REMAINING in the mix include the Manchester Central (13-4-1), Bedford (Division II champ competing at Division I, 18-0) and Bow (16-2) boys along with the three-time defending champ Exeter (17-0), Souhegan of Amherst (15-2-1), Bow and Sunapee (17-0-1) girls.
The Blue Hawk boys have dominated Division I thus far, posting the most prolific offense (91 total goals) and most stingy defense (15 allowed) while going 17-0 and winning games by an average victory margin of four.
Of the teams still in the championship hunt, the undefeated Lisbon (18-0) boys - the No. 1 Division IV seed - is the top scoring boys' team, netting 85 goals in 18 games.
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Eric Emmerling covers high school boys' and girls' soccer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.