The Lost Season: Nobody’s beaten the champion ConVal boys’ soccer team yet

  • Ben Kriebel in action for ConVal against Lebanon in 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/10/2020 10:25:36 AM

The 2020 Division II boys’ soccer champion was crowned this weekend, and while Oyster River may have taken home the trophy, the ConVal boys are still defending champions.

The Cougars were the best team in DII in 2018 and 2019, winning the first boys’ soccer title in school history and then going back-to-back. Their shot at a third straight never happened, however, as the district did not allow them to compete in interscholastic play this fall. 

Junior goalkeeper Zach Burgess was ready for his chance to step into the net and try to fill Mather Kipka’s cleats, as the Cougars graduated nearly every starter and a slew of reserves. And while it may have been a rebuilding year, there was plenty of talent set for the ConVal roster in 2020. 

“I think our goal would have been to be in the top half of the league,” Burgess said. “As a player, my goal was to develop as much as I could before next season, when we would be a much more experienced team. Personally, I want to grow as a leader because as a goalkeeper I can see the field better than the other players and find what both teams are and are not doing well.”

Senior Ben Kriebel said he was hoping to bond with the next generation of players and prepare them for the future while still making a run at another good postseason performance.

“I didn’t set super high expectations because I thought that having a fun season would be optimal,” Kriebel said. As it turned out, ConVal was relegated to skills-and-drill practices, a non-competitive configuration that Kriebel said was “unfair to the student athletes.”

“Although it has helped me improve skill-wise, it takes part of the fun out of school sports,” said Kriebel, who opted to join the golf team this fall once he found that soccer would be non-competitive.

Burgess said he would have preferred a normal season, but that he did find some improvement through ConVal’s practices and hopes that it set him up well for next fall. 

“Just playing together will build chemistry,” he said, “so this season is not a total loss.”

For the seniors who’ll graduate without their chance to defend their title – and for many, start for the Cougars for the first time in their careers – there’s no getting back what they missed this fall. “I am a little disappointed because I had a wonderful season last year and would have gotten way more playing time,” Kriebel said. “We knew that most of the division would be out to get us, and mentally I know I was prepared. Since the season did not happen, there’s nobody out there that can tell us that we didn’t have a shot at a third state championship.”


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