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Hopkinton, Bow boys’ soccer teams handle semifinal challenges

  • Bow's Joshua DeYoung slides in to kick the ball away from Sanborn posession in the Division III semifinal between the schools on November 7, 2013 at Merrimack Valley High School. Bow won in penalty kicks after the teams stayed at 0-0 throughout the game. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Joshua DeYoung slides in to kick the ball away from Sanborn posession in the Division III semifinal between the schools on November 7, 2013 at Merrimack Valley High School. Bow won in penalty kicks after the teams stayed at 0-0 throughout the game.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bow's Nathahn Riera celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick in the Division III game against Sanborn on November 7, 2013 at Merrimack Valley High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Nathahn Riera celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick in the Division III game against Sanborn on November 7, 2013 at Merrimack Valley High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Hopkinton's Brian Hauschild and Prospect Mountain's Ken Gilbert race to take control of the ball in the game between the schools during the Division III boys' soccer semifinal at Merrimack Valley High School on November 7, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Hopkinton's Brian Hauschild and Prospect Mountain's Ken Gilbert race to take control of the ball in the game between the schools during the Division III boys' soccer semifinal at Merrimack Valley High School on November 7, 2013.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Bow's Joshua DeYoung slides in to kick the ball away from Sanborn posession in the Division III semifinal between the schools on November 7, 2013 at Merrimack Valley High School. Bow won in penalty kicks after the teams stayed at 0-0 throughout the game. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bow's Nathahn Riera celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick in the Division III game against Sanborn on November 7, 2013 at Merrimack Valley High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Hopkinton's Brian Hauschild and Prospect Mountain's Ken Gilbert race to take control of the ball in the game between the schools during the Division III boys' soccer semifinal at Merrimack Valley High School on November 7, 2013. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

PENACOOK – After proving its dominance over the course of an entire season, the Hopkinton boys’ soccer team was set up for an exit from the Division III tournament that could only be characterized as unfair, undeserved – and totally, completely bizarre.

For the end of one half and the start of another, the undefeated Hawks had done nothing but wage an all-out, unanswered bombardment on the Prospect Mountain net. But with 17:39 to play, there stood the Hawks, down 1-0 after a Timberwolves goal, staring at what would be a stunning defeat and end to their championship hopes.

They didn’t have to stare long, however. Only 30 seconds later, the Hawks responded. Less than eight minutes later they scored again, with Evan Ruderman giving them a 2-1 victory and a just outcome to a game they had undoubtedly dominated for more than half of the 80 minutes of play.

“I think these guys are smart enough soccer players that they got that it was an onslaught,” Hawks Coach Scott Zipke said. “It was just a matter of time.”

The victory set up the first final berth for Hopkinton (18-0-1) since it won four straight titles from 2006-09, and the Hawks will face Bow, the team that gave them their last defeat in last year’s semifinals. The Falcons clinched their fourth straight final appearance by topping a game Sanborn squad, 1-0, in penalty kicks.

“(Sanborn) played with incredible heart. We had to meet that, which I thought we did,” said Bow Coach George Pinkham, whose second-seeded team improved to 17-1-1 after ending the Cinderella run of the 14th-seeded Indians. “It was a great game. I hate to see a game end in PKs, though. That’s not a team victory.”

It was the expected situation, the top seed and second seed moving on to face each other, but both teams were a hair away from seeing their bids to Sunday’s game vanish in front of them. The Hawks certainly did. Between the game’s 33rd and 51st minutes, Hopkinton peppered the fourth-seeded Timberwolves’ net with eight shots, six of which forced keeper Jake Towle (10 saves total) to make diving stops, one of which got away for a follow-up shot that was stopped by defenseman Nathan Farnham and a final one that came off the foot of Riley McNicholas and hit the goalpost at the top left corner before bouncing out.

“It hits the inside of the post and comes out. … It’s weird,” Zipke said. “How it doesn’t go in, you know, and clearing it off the line that their defender did and their goalkeeper made a couple of big saves. … That’s just a complete onslaught in the second half.”

The Timberwolves (14-3-2) somehow became the first team to strike when Ken Gilbert followed up after Robbie Ferguson (three saves) knocked away Michael McMahon’s shot with 17:39 to go. If there was doubt setting in for the Hawks, it didn’t show, as Zach Rouleau – who along with Doug Fleury led the charge on those near-misses – tapped in a crossing pass from Tim Jones exactly 30 seconds later to even the score. Several Timberwolves players collapsed to the ground following the score, indicating they felt the same blow Zipke felt his team had dealt.

“To score right after they scored, that’s like the backbreaker,” Zipke said. “To score right away, I can’t imagine the deflation in those guys’ heads.”

The winner came from an unusual source – unusual in that Ruderman wasn’t even on the field in the minutes before his big moment. But the junior got the call to sub in right before a throw-in, and he capitalized on his chance by getting a pass, planting in the right side of the box and firing a rocket that beat Towle with 9:47 to go.

“I was a little frustrated I hadn’t been getting my normal playing time,” he said. “I was fired up to get in. … Coach always tells me to go into balls aggressively, and I wanted it and hit it as hard as I could.”

The Hawks didn’t allow another shot on net the rest of the way, showing just how they were able to post 14 shutouts entering last night. The win set up a rematch with Bow, whose controversial semifinal victory over Hopkinton was decided on an overtime penalty kick, but Zipke said that game created no ill will between the two rivals.

It has, however, provided the Hawks with an added incentive to finish the job this time.

“They feel like they got something taken away from them last year,” he said, “and they’re out there trying to prove it.”

Bow 1, Sanborn 0, PK

With two straight championships and the division’s No. 2 seeding to its name, Bow, on paper at least, appeared a cinch to move on to yet another D-III championship game.

Coach Pinkham, on the other hand, didn’t feel that certainty.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game. They have nothing to lose, they’ve been playing well, they’ve got a heck of a keeper, even though we didn’t test him tonight that much,” he said. “They played much better than a 14th seed. We were lucky to survive and play another final.”

Bow played most of the game, as well as its two overtimes, in the Sanborn end, but the Indians were successful at preventing the Falcons from getting too many open looks. Sanborn keeper Shaun Howard only had to make six saves, but a few – a snag of Luke Laboe’s point-blank shot in stoppage time in regulation and a diving stop on Chris Ketcham’s header in the second overtime – were impressive, and Bow also missed a golden chance when Ketcham’s shot from the right side of the box clanged off the post in the 75th minute.

In the penalty kicks, the Falcons went to work punching their title game ticket. Sanborn went first and hit the post, and Phillip Rizzi – a reserve forward, but the hardest shot on the team, according to Pinkham – beat Howard to his left to give Bow the advantage.

“Like Coach says, just hammer it as hard as you can,” he said. “Just hope it goes in.”

Falcons goalie Tim Bradley came up with a save on the next shot, and Mitchell Blair extended the Falcons’ advantage by driving his kick into the top part of the net. Sanborn scored on the next shot, but after Nathan Riera scored on his kick, the Indians’ next one soared high to set off the Bow celebration.

The victory put Bow in a fourth straight title game, but there’s still a new element to this experience. Only two of the team’s 16 seniors – Ketcham and Riera – started last year, so for others like Bradley, Ben Maurer, Corey Plumb and Braden Dugas, all of whom played well in the win, Sunday will present unique territory.

“Two years ago, it was ours to lose. Last year, we had to go through some good teams,” Pinkham said. “This year, I had no clue, until we (got) there, how this team was going to react.”

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

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