ConVal holds off Coe-Brown, 3-2, in D-II boys’ soccer championship

  • Coe Brown midfielder Jacob Radwan battles ConVal forward Del Bonsu-Anane during the first half of the Division II Soccer Championship at SNHU on Saturday, November 3, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Somehow Coe-Brown forward Cayden Donoghue gets control of the ball near the end line as Con-Val defenseman Zachary Kriebel goes flying out of bounds. Donoghue went on to score the Cougars second goal on the play at SNHU on Saturday, November 3, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Coe-Brown players Cayden Donoghue (center) and Ryan Whitcher can’€™t believe they were called for offsides after scoring what would have been the tying goal in the waning minutes of the second half at SNHU in Hookset on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Bears went on to lose 3-2. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • ConVal players spill onto the Penmen Field at Southern New Hampshire University on Saturday after earning a 3-2 win over Coe-Brown in the Division II boys’ soccer championship in Manchester. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Con-Val teammates Manny Bowman (15) and Finn Wegmueller (6) celebrate as Coe-Brown Brian Carter (9) and Elijah Hinrichsen (upper right) sit on the field after the Cougars 3-2 victory at SNHU on Saturday, November 3, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 11/4/2018 12:45:21 AM

MANCHESTER – Emotions rise up when seasons end in championship defeats, and that was the case for the Coe-Brown boys’ soccer team after Saturday’s 3-2 loss to ConVal in the Division II final. There was even some extra emotion for the Bears, and that’s because this team was about more than just soccer.

“These guys became brothers, as cliched as that sounds, they really, really care about each other,” Coe-Brown coach Christian Gompert said. “They’ve been through a lot this year, we’ve had some kids have some big losses in their families, a lot of grieving, and these kids came together and they supported each other.

“It can be more than just about the game of soccer, and for these guys it was really like that.”

Senior captain Ben Healey succinctly agreed.

“I love this group,” Healey said. “I’m going to miss this team a lot.”

The third-seeded Bears (14-4-1) took a lead in the 43rd minute on the first of two goals from junior Cayden Donoghue, who put a third in the back of the net in the final minute before being ruled offsides. The top-ranked Cougars (18-1-0) responded like champions to Donoghue’s first goal, scoring three times in the next 13 minutes to take control on their way to the first championship in school history, an achievement that elicited its own kind of emotion.

“My dad was on the first ConVal team that went to a championship in ’86, Clint Burgess,” said ConVal senior Taylor Burgess, who scored his team’s first goal. “So it felt like this win tonight it was for the team in ’86, the team in ’94 that went to the ’ship and then the team two years ago that was 15-1 and then lost in the quarterfinals. So we won for ConVal boys’ soccer history.”

Heavy winds at Southern New Hampshire University’s Penmen Stadium threatened to whip the game into a mess, but the players shrugged off the difficult conditions and delivered a quality first half. Both sides had good chances, the best one for Coe-Brown coming in the 11th minute when a play started by a chip pass from Lucciano Minasalli ended with a shot from Jacob Radwan that beat ConVal keeper Mather Kipka (seven saves) but was stopped by defender Casey Jordan.

Donoghue broke the scoreless tie when he ran on to a well-weighted pass from Mason Winiarski and sent his shot past Kipka, who was racing off his line at Donoghue, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead just 2:38 into the second half.

“We were all sort of stunned after that,” Burgess said. “We’ve been a great defensive team this year, we had allowed only seven goals up to that point in the entire season. But once that goal went in and once we had that realization, we knew we had to get something going and we had to get something going now. That goal was possibly the best thing that could have happened to us because in the first half we were slow, we weren’t getting anything going.”

There was nothing slow about the next 13 minutes. Less than four minutes after Donoghue scored, a loose ball in the box landed at Burgess’s feet and he hammered it into an open net. About seven minutes later, Colby Knight lofted a shot from 30 yards out that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced in off Coe-Brown keeper Hogan Cain (six saves), who couldn’t have done much with the awkward ball.

“It’s a really tough sport because things can happen like bad bounces, good bounces, being at the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time,” Gompert said. “It’s a brutal game.”

The Cougars ended their scoring binge two minutes later when Del Bonsu-Anane zipped a pass through the box to Finn Wegmueller, who went into a slide to finish and make it 3-1 in the 56th minute.

“It was really hectic out there (as ConVal was on its scoring streak) and I wish we could have slowed things down, but that’s not what happened,” Healey said.

Coe-Brown threw players forward after that looking for goals, and Donoghue found one with 7:33 left. The junior fought off a ConVal defender to somehow save the ball from going over the end line, went to a knee while maintaining control of the ball, got up and flicked a shot with the outside of his foot past Kipka and into the far-side netting.

As stunning as the goal was, it would have been all but forgotten if Donoghue’s third goal had counted. Center back Connor Fallon was playing up top and his relentless pressure led to a corner kick in the final two minutes. That kick eventually led to a re-service from Coe-Brown’s other center back, Riley Colby, who played it perfectly for Donoghue on the other side of the field. Donoghue connected on the header, sending the ball into the corner of the goal for what seemed like a miracle equalizer, but the offsides flag went up.

“When he called the offsides I was pretty upset, but it looked like it was offsides to me,” Healey said, “but it was close, and I really couldn’t tell.”

“We pushed it, we sent a lot of guys up there at the very end and we almost had it,” Gompert said. “I’m just really proud of the guys for being resilient and leaving everything out there. That’s what they had to do.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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