EXETER — As far as the standards go for the Bow High girls’ soccer team, last year wasn’t exactly a success. Despite making the Division II semifinals, the Falcons didn’t win the ultimate prize — as they had the year before.
Flash forward to this season and Bow is now in a position to redeem itself after a 2-0 semifinal win over Hollis/Brookline on Thursday at Bill Ball Stadium. Goals by Madison Roberge and Anna Lafreniere, along with a standout effort in goal by Emma Wilke, sent the third-seeded Falcons to their eighth NHIAA title game in 10 years, including two of the last three D-II finals.
The Falcons will take on No. 1 Hanover, the defending champs, in Sunday’s 1 p.m. final at Chabot McDonough Field in Manchester after the Marauders downed No. 4 Milford 1-0 in overtime in Thursday’s second semifinal.
“We never gave up,” Bow coach Jay Vogt said. “They kind of came at us at the beginning and we were kind of on our heels, but we recovered and found our game.”
Bow was indeed ambushed by second-seeded Hollis/Brookline, but the Falcons got the last laugh when Roberge got the Falcons on the board first in the 39th minute. Roberge made Bow’s grind worth it by floating a 20-yard boot just inside the upper-90, giving the Falcons momentum to work with going into halftime.
“That was huge for us, especially with their style of play,” Vogt said. “It was great to have it.”
Roberge’s goal stood as the lone tally until Lafreniere used her body to finish a Gracie Bresson corner kick to the far post in the 70th minute. “We’ve been working a lot on corner kicks and getting the head on the ball or something,” Vogt said.
The goals made all the difference, but they overshadowed a strong nine-save effort from Wilke. Bow’s senior keeper and Hollis/Brookline keeper Christina Balsamo (five saves) both soldiered through slick conditions under heavy rainfall. Wilke had to deal with several long-range blasts from Cavaliers’ forward Natasha White among others.
“It was really just getting anything in front of the ball at this point,” Wilke said. “Having a good stick on it was going to be hard to begin with and we knew that. So the mindset was making sure you do anything to keep it from going in the net.”
Vogt acknowledged the big boost from Wilke, but credited the defense, which included Bresson and Taylor Burnham, for standing its ground under duress throughout the night.
“They were very organized and dealt with the balls coming in very well,” Vogt said. “Balls coming through the air hard and on a wet surface, but they were getting a foot on it, knocking it back out and settling things.”
Hanover 1, Milford 0 (OT): The undefeated defending champion Marauders endured 80 minutes of missed connections in regulation before Sage McGinley-Smith scored the winning goal 32 seconds into overtime.
“There were other chances like that during the game,” Hanover coach Doug Kennedy said. “Everybody was in the right place at the right time. That’s really all you can say.”
As Charlotte Johnson carried the ball up the right side off the opening kick, McGinley-Smith crept up the left side and into the box, where she collected Johnson’s cross and slipped a poke inside the left post.
“Sage really just has a knack for being there for the key goal,” Kennedy said. “That really was a tough game. (Milford) had the run of play. I’ll definitely give them that.”
Hanover keeper Bella Bardales and Milford keeper Jade Gregg registered five and three saves apiece.
It was Bardales’ 15th shutout of the season and just the second one-goal win of the season for Hanover
Johnson nearly won the game for the Marauders in regulation on a similar crash to the net that ended with a wide-right shot.
Milford tested Bardales early in the first half, but otherwise had timing issues when it came to finishing any of its attacks.
The Spartans hit a post and had Bardales slap the second-chance attempt away during one key sequence in the first 10 minutes.