(Exeter) “We’re starting a new tradition at South,” said Nashua South coach Tom Bellen.
“We’ve been decent in the past,” he added, “now we’re one of the powerhouses.”
Coach Bellen’s Panthers solidified their status with a 2-0 win over Hanover to gain the NHIAA Division I state title for the second straight season.
Revin Olsen’s first-half goal off a header turned into the game winner.
“I saw the ball crossed in,” explained Revin’s teammate Leonel Lopez afterwards. “I saw Revin there above everyone else. He was right where he needed to be. When he scored it, I was so happy.”
Leonel not only saw that goal but later in the second half the sophomore defender kept the Bears (16-5) from scoring a tying goal.
On the crucial play, South goalie Ansh Khanna had the right side of the net covered but to his left was wide open. The Hanover shot headed for what looked to be an open space.
“I saw the net was open so I jumped into the spot,” explained Leonel. He was able to head the incoming shot away to preserve the shutout.
“Both teams created great chances,” said Hanover coach Rob Grabill afterwards.
“I love the fact that it was an attractive game,” he added. “It was a game that represented the sport very well. It was high level soccer.”
Temperatures were in the 70’s with a steady breeze. The weather and the soccer were equally impressive. Whistles were few.
Earlier in the season after Nashua South lost to Nashua North, Coach Bellen made a surprising prediction. “I told the kids after that loss that we were going to win the state championship.”
“It was just a matter of doing the little things better, “he added.
“At the time, I knew we were a talented team and thought that we could win again,” said senior Jadiel Bomfim, “but it was going to take a lot of work.”
Senior goalie Ansh Khanna agreed, “We came into the season thinking we could do it again.”
The Panthers (17-3) put the game out of reach in the closing minutes with a second goal.
The Panthers were awarded a corner kick. Bears goalie Ty Nolon recognized that the Panthers, with the one-goal lead, would take their time preparing for the play. So he carried the ball to the corner and put it down in front of the corner kicker (Santi Somorrostro) and quickly headed to the front of the net. Santi saw the opportunity and curled a shot into the net before Ty or his teammates were set up to defend.
“That was high soccer IQ by Santi in that second goal,” said Coach Bellen. “We talk all the time about being smart out there. We’ve had a couple of free-kick plays during the season similar to the one today.”
The #2 Panthers had defeated the #5 Bears 2-1 at Hanover on September 14th.
Hanover came into today’s game on a 12-game winning streak. The Bears won the state title in 2013 and 2019.
Ansh Khanna: “I did my job. To beat the same team again was lovely. We showed them that we’re one of the best.”
Jadiel Bomfim: “Hanover is a good team. I have a lot of friends there.”
Coach Grabill: “Two very different high school communities and yet how much they have in common and how well they got along with each other. It was heartwarming. I really liked to see that.”
Joona Hantula: “I was on the bench for the first goal. I said to one of my teammates that we’re going to score….and we did.”
Coach Bellen: “Leonel did the same thing in another game this season to save a goal. I owe him twice!”