Boys’ Soccer: ConVal wins second straight Division II title

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team defeated Lebanon 1-0 in the NHIAA Division II championship game to capture its second straight state title. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Trevor Faber, left, and goalie Mather Kipka, of ConVal, right, celebrate their NHIAA Division II championship at Manchester Memorial High School in Manchester Saturday. James M. Patterson / VALLEY NEWS

  • Trevor Faber, of ConVal, right, stops the progress of Lebanon’s Tyler St. Martin during the NHIAA Division II championship at Manchester Memorial High School in Manchester, N.H., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. ConVal won1-0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/10/2019 3:58:54 PM

The ConVal boys’ soccer team knew the road to a second straight NHIAA Division II championship was going to be different.

Last year, at least internally, the Cougars knew they could play with anyone. It just took a while for the rest of the division to realize they were a true contender, as ConVal captured the first state title in program history.

That was not the case leading into the fall. Returning nine starters from last year’s squad that went 18-1 and entering this season riding a 12-game winning streak, ConVal knew there was a big target on its back. But in the end it didn’t matter. The top seeded Cougars took a one-goal lead less than five minutes into Saturday’s DII championship game against Lebanon, thanks to senior Casey Jordan’s header off a Max Shumway corner kick and made the early tally standup in a 1-0 victory at Manchester Memorial High School.

“It felt completely different. Last year we were the underdogs we didn’t realize where we were until half way through the season, but this year, the expectations have always been there,” said senior defender Trevor Faber.

It was the third time the Cougars and Raiders squared off this season after meeting in the quarterfinals a year ago, resulting in the same 1-0 outcome in favor of ConVal.

At home in early September, the Cougars won a double overtime thriller, but less than three weeks ago, it was Lebanon, the No. 2 seed in Division II, handing ConVal it’s only loss of the regular season, snapping its 26-game unbeaten streak.

So it was only fitting the two best teams in DII, who had split its first two meetings, were matched up with the championship on the line.

“It seems like this was how it was supposed to end,” said senior keeper Mather Kipka. “I feel like we were the two best team in the division and it all kind of led up to this and it feels really good to come out on top.”

The Cougars looked every bit the part of a title contender during a 13-1-2 regular season that resulted in a second straight top seed in DII. Behind a dominating defense that had posted 11 shutouts, an all-state senior keeper in Kipka who had only allowed nine goals in 18 games and an offense that was averaging close to three goals a game, ConVal was up for the task of repeating on Saturday.

“Internally we always knew what we could do, but externally now people expected it,” said coach Josh Smith. “Everybody was coming every game for us, gunning for us, wanting to be the team to knock us off. That pressure at times can get to you, but we found our way through.”

After the game’s only goal, a well timed header from Jordan past Lebanon keeper Jorgen Leuthauser off a perfectly placed corner from the left foot of Shumway, there was optimism – even though there was 75 minutes left in the game – that would be enough for a second straight title.

“With corner kicks I tend to run toward the PK and he just placed the ball perfectly and I was able to get a head on it,” Jordan said. “Going into the game we were definitely looking for that first goal. Once that goal went in it was the best feeling ever. I know we hadn’t won, but it felt in that moment we had it under control.”

With the early lead, ConVal could lean on what has been their calling card all season – their defense. It wasn't easy because while the scoreboard showed that Lebanon failed to put one of their nine shots on goal in the back of the net, there were chances. The ConVal defense and Kipka just proved to be up to the test.

“When you talk about ConVal the last two years, our defense has been our most important asset, so when you’re pressed in a game like this and need your defense to come up big, they do,” Smith said. “We have the utmost belief in them and our team that we’re going to dig deep and find a way through.”

For much of the second half – and a good chunk of the first – Lebanon was the one that possessed the ball more, something the Cougars pride themselves on with precision passing and spacing. As the time ticked down, it looked more and more like the Raiders would come up with the equalizer. The best chance came with 27 minutes to play, as Lebanon senior Logan Falzarano corralled a Ryan Oliveira cross and found a point blank shot at the ConVal net. But like he’s done throughout his career, Kipka put himself in the perfect position to send the blast sailing over the cross bar.

“I saw the ball late, normally I’m trying to anticipate balls coming into the box and position myself accordingly, but that one I saw it a bit late, but I was able to get a little bit off my line and get my hands in place,” Kipka said. “Luckily the shot was right at me. Really it was just me being in the right place at the right time.”

That followed a corner kick that bounced around the box for what seemed like forever before a Lebanon foul ended its quest for the tying goal.

The Raiders kept pushing the ball upfield, as ConVal settled on a boot and clear approach, but the only team to beat the Cougars this season just couldn’t get that final touch for an equalizer.

“We had the same kind of problem last game, we got up early and then spent the rest of the game trying to kick it as far as we could,” said senior Zach Kriebel. “I think it weakened our game, cause as you saw we had to play defense most of the second half, thankfully we were strong enough to hold it out.”

The Cougars only mustered two shots on goal, one of them being Jordan’s game winner, but once again it was enough for the defensive unit to post yet another shutout, this time to win the second title in program history. Saturday’s championship game goal was Jordan’s third on the season and second game winner. For Shumway, it was his fifth assist.

“Going out there and being able to find an early goal is huge for confidence,” Smith said. ”To get the first goal, and an early goal, just calmed our nerves a little bit.”

Since allowing a season high two goals in that Oct. 23 loss to Lebanon, the Cougars had not allowed a goal, including against its first two postseason opponents, Manchester West (3-0) and Bow (1-0).

“Our team is very defensive oriented and I attribute 100% of my success to the defense playing in front of me,” Kipka said.

After the final buzzer sounded, a homemade sign made its way on to the Manchester Memorial field Saturday night. The white piece of poster board simply said, Back 2 Back.

“You put so much work in and this is the best way to go out, best way to end my soccer career,” Faber said.

As the Cougars celebrated its second straight DII title in classic ConVal fashion, the sign was passed around among the players, held up for pictures and emphasized the final checkmark on a list of goals the defending champions outlined prior to the start of their title defense.

“We set our goals at the beginning of the season, we were like we only lost four players, we lost two starters and two captains, two very strong players, but we have 17 seniors,” Kriebel said. “This is our chance, we can go back-to-back here. We have the players, we have the coaching, we have everything we need to be in this situation again and we made the most of it.”

“They’ve left their mark on the program,” Smith said of the senior class. “Winning the first state title and then going to back-to-back championships and then also winning back-to-back championships they’ve really just done such a great job and matured so much over these last four years so it’s really been a joy for me to be a part of it.”

This team expected to repeat, becoming the first to do so in DII since Windham in 2012-13, and it didn’t matter who they had to beat to accomplish it.

“I think this was maybe the first thing on the list,” Smith said. “It’s what they’ve wanted all year. Everything we did this year was working toward getting to this moment.”


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