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Joe Duball's High School Soccer: Striking start for Exeter's top scorer

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 12. 2017 12:32AM

From a soccer team’s perspective, you hate to pin your fortunes on one player. However, it’s easy to do that when you have a unique talent like striker Quinn Mantegari of the Exeter High boys’ soccer team.

The senior already has nine goals to his credit through five games this season after proving himself as a capable scorer in 2016. Over half of Mantegari’s strikes are the difference between Exeter sporting its 5-0 record or being below .500.

Mantegari scored all of Exeter’s goals in a 2-1 win over Hanover and a 3-0 triumph over Bishop Guertin of Nashua. Last week’s two-goal effort in a 3-2 win over previously unbeaten Concord was vital, as Mantegari’s late strikes tied and won that contest.

“We’re getting him the ball in space,” said Exeter coach Jim Tufts after the victory over Concord. “It’s something we have to continue to do because people are going to mark and find him. We can’t just give him the ball and watch him go. We’ve got to make things happen off the ball and do the work.”

Space is certainly working to Mantegari’s advantage, but he’s got a knack for finding the space faster than defenders would hope. Elite speed and stamina are allowing him to get a step ahead of defenders, but his unmatched burst to and with the ball is something to marvel. Mantegari’s first goal against Concord showed as much when he blazed up the left sideline for 15 yards before crossing into the 18-yard box through three defenders for his scoring chance.

“There’s a lot to create just off his individual play,” said Concord coach Scott Dunlop of Mantegari. “He knows how to turn it on. You can neutralize him like we did in the first half, but he can take it to another level when he needs to and that’s hard to contain.”

Exeter won’t live and die by Mantegari’s performances all season, but having him take the lead to open the season is certainly helping the defending Division I champion Blue Hawks. Mantegari is one of just two returning starters for Exeter.

“There are a lot of teams that are probably saying how fortunate we are to have a finisher,” Tufts said. “He’s just a student of the game that finds holes and places that others won’t. We need to get better off him, though. We can’t rely on him and we won’t. There’s a long way to go here, man.”

Sean McGuiness, Lee Veader, Matt Hersey and Cam Clark are beginning to show as alternatives sources of offense for Exeter. Having options will be of great importance today when Exeter hosts another unbeaten club in Londonderry (4-0) at 7 p.m. at Bill Ball Stadium.

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KEEPING A spotless record intact through any point in the season is something to take pride in and that’s exactly what the 5-0 Raymond boys are doing through the first three weeks of their season.

The Rams have already eclipsed their win total from a year ago, a season in which they finished 3-11-2 and did not make the playoffs. Fifth-year Raymond coach Dave Elliot could’ve told anyone that his team wasn’t going to set the world on fire last season just by looking at the schedule.

“It was a tough year with the NHIAA starting with the 70 percent rule,” Elliot said. Last fall was the first season that NHIAA limited playoff fields to no more than 70 percent of teams in a given division. “Everyone around the league said we had one of the two toughest schedules in the league. That’s mostly because we have a lot of the division’s stronger teams around us and we tried to see more teams than most of the league did.”

The daunting schedule helped create a battle-tested group for Raymond this season. Being experienced and equipped to manage any opponent has resulted in Raymond winning four of its five games by two goals or fewer.

Elliot didn’t go as far as saying he expected these Rams to be as good as they’ve been thus far, but he was optimistic when looking at the players who have grown into roles over recent seasons. Now that he’s gotten a glimpse at what he has, Elliot said he thinks it might be the best club he’s had at Raymond since his first year with the program in 2012.

Elliot added that his team is unique in that it embraces a starless style of play while getting all 11 players involved. Among the big contributors are Andrew Dupuis, Nick Brazzo, Alex Sweeney, Tyler Belander and Chris Palmer. Dupuis is a four-year varsity player and a catalyst at center midfielder. Sweeney has logged four shutouts in net for the Rams thus far and allowed just one goal. Palmer is the club’s leading scorer with six of Raymond’s 13 goals.

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THE CAMPBELL of Litchfield girls were expected to be among the toughest clubs in Division III this season. What no one expected, including the Cougars, is that they would do so with such a fluid situation at the goalie position.

Alicia Noury has carried Campbell to a 3-0-1 record so far and has yet to give up a goal. Noury’s efforts are nothing short of impressive considering she was slated to be the backup goalie behind Sierra Reinitzer as the season began. Reinitzer went down with an injury in the Cougars’ second preseason game, according to Campbell coach Gary Karibian, and has been on the mend since.

Making Campbell’s situation even more compelling is that no one expected Reinitzer or Noury to be in the equation following the sparkling 2016 campaign by freshman keeper Mackenzie Wagner. The expectation was that Wagner would resume her duties in her sophomore season, but she opted to play club soccer instead of rejoining the Cougars this fall.

Karibian said at the start of the season that he was happy for Wagner and was completely comfortable and confident with Reinitzer taking over. Karibian is in an enviable position once Reinitzer is healthy, as he will have two capable keepers and a defense that looks primed to be Division III’s best for the second consecutive season.

Joe Duball’s High School Soccer column runs Tuesday during the season. Write him at