North Conway, NH - November 4th, 2022 - The New Hampshire Soccer League state championship tournament was held at the NHSA State Fields in Pembroke, NH October 29-30, but the road to the championship went through Mt Washington Valley.
MWV Soccer Club fielded teams in four age groups this fall: U12 Boys, U12 Girls, U13 Coed and U15 Coed. To qualify for the state championship tournament, teams had to finish in the top four of their division. All of MWV Soccer Club’s fall teams not only qualified, but advanced to the championship game where all impressed and two ultimately won the championship.
For the U12 Boys, it was a season of triumph capping multiple seasons of hard work and development. As recently as the 2022 spring season, U12 had gone without a win in league play. Perseverance paid off this fall as the squad, with many of the same players, turned the tables, running through the NHSL regular season undefeated and entering the championship tournament as the number one seed.
Coaches John Lamneck and Pat Murphy guided their team through a nail-biter in Saturday's semi-final against International Soccer Club Pride based out of Nashua. MWV fans cheered their team on in a battle that remained scoreless until late in the second half. In the waning minutes of regulation MWV goalkeeper Brigham Killourie punted the ball deep, Jaxsen Gagnon anticipated the bounce over a defender, took the ball downfield and delivered a through-pass to Gus Lamneck who kicked home the game’s only goal.
In the U12 Boys Final, MWV met Pelham NH Soccer Club. Again, teams battled through a scoreless first half. Early in the second half, Evan Landers was taken down by the Pelham goalie and awarded a penalty kick. Landers placed that kick perfectly to put MWV up 1-0. Landers would add two more goals with Gus Lamneck also scoring on an impressive individual play in which he wound through multiple Pelham defenders. When the clock expired, the 4-0 score meant MWV was division state champion.
“Last spring, many of these players didn’t win a game,” said Kelly Gagnon, Executive Director of MWV Soccer. “But parents and players fell in love with soccer. Watching them develop as individuals and as a team and to see their hard work pay off this way is so rewarding.”
The U12 girls squad, coached by Jenny Laine and Julie Boewe also finished the regular season in first place with a record of 5-1-1, earning a first round bye and advancing straight to the NHSL championship game where they met Lakes Region United. LRU scored first, putting pressure on MWV. MWV’s Emma Baker responded with a beautiful score, going far post from the top of the goalie box to make it 1-1. LRU continued to pressure, though, threatening to take the lead. Chloe Laine put an end to that with an unstoppable individual rush, dribbling away from defenders and striking the ball past the goalie for an MWV 2-1 victory and championship.
U15 and U13 teams both made it to the final game as coed teams playing in all male divisions.
The U13 squad coached by Scott Laine and Kevin Lebel entered the tournament as the second seed with a record of 6 wins and 1 draw. In its semifinal match, U13 went up against the talented third seed, Auburn. Auburn used impressive ball control to keep pressure on MWV, but MWV’s defense put up a forcefield around the goal box and allowed few actual shots on net. Conversely, MWV made good on almost every offensive opportunity it had, making quick downfield passes and precision strikes that took the air out of its opponent.
“We worked a lot on letting the ball do the work. Less dribbling, more passing,” said coach Laine.
MWV won 5-0 with goals by Trent Roden, Sara Boewe, Maya Johnson, Mason McAllister and Leighton Theberge. Boewe also played goalie, combining with Ellie Proulx for the shutout in net.
In the final, the U13 squad met the first-seeded and undefeated team from Hampstead. The match lived up to expectations. Hampstead scored off a corner kick midway through the first half, and that score lasted all the way into the final minute of the game. Hoping for the equalizer, coaches Laine and Lebel had goalie Boewe join the attack on the opponent’s net. Time ran out with all 22 players on the field packed into the Hampstead goalie box, a mad scramble for the game-tying goal keeping fans cheering and hopeful until the final whistle.
The U15 coed team, coached by Nate Zipf, finished the NHSL regular season 4-1-2. In the semi-final, MWV upset the higher seeded International Soccer Club 2-1, with goals by Hunter Roberts on a penalty kick and Brooklyn Gagne who delivered a beautiful ball under the crossbar from out wide. In the final, MWV battled John Stark to a 1-1 tie through regulation. With about 4 minutes remaining in overtime, John Stark netted a goal that would stay the difference until the final whistle, leaving the MWV squad as the runners-up.
“We are so proud of our co-ed teams,” said Gagnon. “We had a tough decision at the beginning of the season. We could have tried to add more players to form male and female teams, but the level of talent, dedication and love of the sport that these players have, it made combining them into co-ed teams the better option, and this weekend it showed.”
MWV Soccer Club is open to players from across Mt Washington Valley and beyond. The club fields travel teams in spring and fall, runs an indoor winter futsal league, and runs learn-to-play programs for younger children. For more information, visit mwvsoccer.com and follow MWV Soccer Club on Facebook.