Boys’ soccer: Campbell goes back-to-back, ends Mascenic’s best season ever

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' soccer team played Campbell in the NHIAA Division III championship game on Sunday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/11/2019 10:05:40 AM

The Vikings’ thrill ride came to a heartbreaking end Sunday night, as the most successful Mascenic soccer team in program history walked off the Laconia turf runners-up after losing to Campbell 3-2 in double overtime in the NHIAA Division III championship game.

“We definitely achieved everything we wanted to achieve,” said Mascenic head coach Andy Helliesen, “with one exception.”

Defending champions and No. 1 seed Campbell (18-0-2) shut out N0. 3 Mascenic (17-3) in their regular-season meeting, but the Vikings came away from that game in Litchfield confident that they’d see the Cougars again and have a shot at beating them.

The Vikings took command early on Sunday night, as Noah Caballero sent a perfect through ball up to Nate “Diesel” Wilkins, who split two Campbell defenders and roared to the net, folding Campbell keeper Jack Noury and putting Mascenic up 1-0 in the eighth minute. 

The Vikings dominated the first half, pressing the attack thanks to the ferocity of forward Dylan Vaillancourt and the playmaking ability of defensive mid Sam Stauffeneker, two players who made huge strides over the past two years to enable Mascenic’s success.  

“We took their athletic abilities and through training got them to be legit soccer players, not just super athletic DIII kids,” Helliesen said. 

After Campbell received, but missed, a penalty kick in the second minute, a whistle-heavy game seemed to be in the offing, and that was borne out; both sides received yellow cards, and it was anybody’s guess as to what the calls would be when the officials stopped play. Despite the natural chippiness of a championship game, the Vikings and Cougars remained respectful, picking each other up after fouls and even helping stretch out opponents who cramped up. 

In the second half, Campbell captain Joaquin Heller made his presence felt. Heller got into a scrum in the goal mouth with Mascenic keeper Chris Wilkins knocked out of the play and pounded away at the ball until it snuck through the thicket of legs and into the net for the equalizer in the 66th minute. Heller struck again with 15 minutes to go, breaking out along the right side and sliding the ball all the way across the goal to the left post to put the defending champs up late in the title game. 

Mascenic was down, but not out. The Vikings dug deep and sent defensive anchor Zack Barthel up front to improve their chances through the air. 

“One of our strengths all season was our aerial presence,” Helliesen said, “and I would say our best aerial presence we have is Zack.  As far as offensive headers, he’s top of the line.”

Still down one in stoppage time, the Vikings earned a corner, which Matt Wilkins served up to Barthel at the top of the box for a game-tying header; it was two apiece at the end of regulation, and a second straight overtime game for the Vikings. 

Campbell and Mascenic played through the first extra frame and almost all of the second overtime without a golden goal, but with the clock stopped and about two minutes left, Campbell’s Samuel Gomes found a ricochet off a corner kick and put it away to give the Cougars a 3-2 victory and their second straight championship.

The Vikings dropped to the ground in agonizing defeat as the Cougars celebrated, but even with the loss, Mascenic’s season was one for the books. The finals appearance was the first for the Vikings, who’d made it to the final four in 2009 but otherwise found limited postseason success. Just from 2018 to 2019, they’d improved their total wins from 10 to 17, and scored more than twice as many goals (78) than the previous year (37) as well. 

“The past four years, the word’s always been growth,” Helliesen said. “We had a better record than last season and whenever you have consistent growth, you’re going to have achievement. We started when these guys were freshmen and sophomores, every season they got better.”

Mascenic will enter a rebuilding year in 2020 after graduating 10 seniors, nine of which were starters. 

“It’s going to be tough to see those guys go,” Helliesen said. “Obviously the field isn’t going to be the same, but the school’s not going to be the same without those people. Luckily I still have three quarters of teaching them math before that happens.”


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