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Windham’s Joe Forti (20) tries to dodge a John Stark player during the Jaguars’ 2-0 semifinal win on Nov. 1 at Stellos Stadium. They advanced to the state championship and won, 3-2, over top-seeded Hollis-Brookline on Sunday, Nov. 4. (Dan Moberger Photo)

Windham boys snag Div. II state soccer title

WINDHAM - Reaching the semifinals was not enough for the Windham Jaguars. After a first-round bye and two mid-round wins, the boys soccer team beat No. 1 seed Hollis-Brookline, 3-2, to take home the Division 2 state championship Sunday, Nov. 4.

Upsets were frequent in the playoffs. The No. 3 and No. 4 teams were knocked out in the first round, so Windham's first-round bye was crucial.

'The goal is to be there at the end, and we were able to put together a pretty good regular season to get us in the position to get a good seed,' said head coach Michael Hachey. 'When you see what happened in the tournament and they were all upsets, kind of the whole seeding went out of the way, but it really made the bye that much more important.'

The Jaguars came into the tournament as the No. 2 seed with a 13-3 regular season record. They earned one of two first-round byes and cruised past Coe-Brown Northwood in the quarterfinals, but encountered a resilient John Stark team in the semifinals.

John Stark, the 14-seed, upset No. 3 Goffstown in the first round and then No. 11 Oyster River in the quarterfinals. Windham controlled the tempo throughout the game

'Coming into the final four, you know everyone's earned the right to be here, so you've got to bring your best,' Hachey said after the John Stark game. 'I think today, in all aspects of the game - from the back line to the midfield, to the guys up top - I think we brought our best.'

The Jaguars fought through injuries all season, but as the regular season came to a close, the players started to get healthy. Hachey said they started playing their best soccer come playoff time.

'We have suffered some injuries, and I'm sure every team has, but we are getting healthy at the right times and we've got a good level of confidence right now,' Hachey said.

Goals from Chris Ulbrich and Alex Whitehead secured the Jaguars semifinal victory. Having made their way into the finals, the players sat and watched the other semifinal game between Hollis-Brookline and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Hachey knew the next game would be a more difficult task. The Jaguars lost to Hollis-Brookline, 1-0, on Sept. 19 and narrowly beat St. Thomas, 2-1 on Aug. 31.

Hollis-Brookline won its semifinal match, 4-0, over St. Thomas, leaving the top two seeds to face off in the finals.

'No matter what happens on Sunday, I can guarantee it's going to be a battle,' Hachey said. 'I don't anticipate anyone getting any breathing room. It's going to be 80-plus minutes of an intense, tight match.'

The Jaguars won the same way Hollis-Brookline beat them earlier in the year - by a single goal.

The team's success all season was keyed by strong play in all facets of the game, Hachey said. Senior Andrew Pesci held up the back line as the goaltender.

Matt Carbonello shored up the defense and Alex Khoury provided a spark from the midfield.

'The guys have been playing together for a long time,' Hachey said. 'We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, we know how to get each other motivated, and there is not lack of people stepping up, no lack of leadership, no lack of someone wanting to make that play in that moment.'

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