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Rossignol’s goal lifts Bow to Division III soccer crown

  • Bow teammates celebrate their 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III  State boys soccer finals in Exeter; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Bow teammates celebrate their 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III State boys soccer finals in Exeter; Sunday, November 4, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Belmont's Jeremy D'Amour (5) and Bow's  Samuel Cheney fight for possession in Bow's 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III  State boys soccer finals; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Belmont's Jeremy D'Amour (5) and Bow's Samuel Cheney fight for possession in Bow's 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III State boys soccer finals; Sunday, November 4, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bow defenders come to the aid of goalie Jordan Birtz on their way to defeating Belmont 1-0 in the Division III State boys soccer finals in Exeter; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Bow defenders come to the aid of goalie Jordan Birtz on their way to defeating Belmont 1-0 in the Division III State boys soccer finals in Exeter; Sunday, November 4, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Belmont's Jeremy D'Amour (5) and Bow's  Samuel Cheney fight for possession in Bow's 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III  State boys soccer finals; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Belmont's Jeremy D'Amour (5) and Bow's Samuel Cheney fight for possession in Bow's 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III State boys soccer finals; Sunday, November 4, 2012.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bow teammates celebrate their 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III  State boys soccer finals in Exeter; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Belmont's Jeremy D'Amour (5) and Bow's  Samuel Cheney fight for possession in Bow's 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III  State boys soccer finals; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Bow defenders come to the aid of goalie Jordan Birtz on their way to defeating Belmont 1-0 in the Division III State boys soccer finals in Exeter; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Belmont's Jeremy D'Amour (5) and Bow's  Samuel Cheney fight for possession in Bow's 1-0 victory over Belmont in the Division III  State boys soccer finals; Sunday, November 4, 2012. <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

EXETER – For pure excitement, it’s tough to top a division championship that caps off a perfect season. But the Bow boys’ soccer team is now champion for the second straight year, courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Belmont at Exeter’s Bill Ball Stadium, and the players feel the same way: This one is just as sweet.

In fact, it might be better.

“Getting a repeat is just the best thing that could ever happen,” senior forward Nikos Kalampalikis said. “It’s so much better than last year.”

Even the coach agreed. After all, Bow was the Goliath last year, the unbeaten team everyone was chasing. This year, the third-seeded Falcons had to go up against higher-seeded squads in No. 2 Hopkinton and No. 1 Belmont. And still, Bow was the last team standing.

“Last year, it was ours to lose,” Coach George Pinkham said. “This year, we earned it.”

They earned it by avoiding the major pitfall teams fell victim to during the Red Raiders’ 19 straight victories to open the season. All year long, Belmont (19-1) had thrived on scoring early and using its stifling defense, which had notched 12 shutouts, to keep the opponent from jumping back into the game.

Pinkham recognized this, and knew that how Bow (18-2) managed the start of the game would determine how it ended.

“I told them, ‘The key to the game is the first 10 minutes,’ ” he said. “They’ve got their entire community here, they’ve got banners, they’ve got everything, they’re higher than a kite. … If we can stem the tide in the first 10 minutes, we’ll be fine.”

The Falcons made it through those 10 minutes, and in the 28th minute, they got their break. Kalampalikis brought the ball down to the left side of the box and fired a shot that Belmont keeper Kaleb Brace (seven saves) dove to stop. He slowed it down, but couldn’t keep the ball from slipping away, and senior midfielder Connor Rossignol was up near the net and in perfect position to knock the ball in for a 1-0 lead.

“It’s just a matter of timing,” Rossignol said. “Usually I’m just trying to time my runs and get it as Nikos is crossing it, and it worked out today.”

“I thought it was going in,” Kalampalikis said. “I knew someone was going to be there, something was going to happen. He always cleans up my mess.”

The Falcons expected to need another goal, but it never came. Instead, Bow had to withstand rally attempt after rally attempt as Belmont’s offense, led by Jeremy D’Amour, Brendon Johnson and Ashton Singh, dominated in the second half. Several Red Raider kicks sailed just high or wide of the net, and Falcons keeper Jordan Birtz (eight saves) had to make saves on corner kicks to halt further opportunities.

He got a fortunate break on Belmont’s best chance in the 61st minute. Birtz had to dive to stop a shot from the left side, and the ball slipped away right to a Belmont forward. Birtz was on the ground, but the shot went right to him, and after a group of Red Raiders gathered, looking to knock in the rebound, Birtz eventually recovered to corral the ball and safely get it away.

“I saved it once, it didn’t go in, saved it twice, it still wasn’t in,” he said. “I saw it in the corner of my eyes, and I just dove for it.”

Over on the sideline, Red Raiders Coach Michael Foley knew that was a tough miss to swallow. He had seen his team pay the price for coming up short against Bow before.

“When you get opportunities, you’ve got to be able to cash in on them,” he said. “The last 10, 15 minutes, we had some nice looks, some great opportunities. Last year in the semifinals, (Birtz) came up huge. And again, he made the saves at the right moment, when you need your keeper to in the finals.”

When the final whistle blew, several Belmont players fell to the ground in disappointment and disbelief, but their coach maintained his perspective. For most of the season, the Red Raiders were the best team in Division III, and Foley knew that was an accomplishment in itself.

“My guys had a fantastic run,” he said. “To finish 19-1, to be in the game, to be in the moment, is what it’s about.”

The Bow players were experiencing a different feeling, however, and as they said, it’s one that doesn’t get old.

“That feels really good,” senior forward Dan Crisman said. “We put that together, and I’m just so proud of the team.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at abonifant@cmonitor.com or at 369-3340, or via Twitter at @dbonifant.)

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