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Lakers allow early goal, can't rebound in 1-0 loss to Newfound

I-L’s Sean Mussen (left) and Jackson Plyer try and steal the ball from Newfound’s Caleb Merrill on Sunday in Bristol. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 24, 2011
BRISTOL – Dahlton Fairbank scored just five minutes into the game and the Newfound Regional High School boys' soccer team made it stand up on Sunday, as the 13th-seeded Bears edged number 20 Inter-Lakes High School, 1-0, in a Division III tournament play-in round game.

"I didn't realize how big of a goal it was until late in the game when it's still the only one scored in the game," said Newfound head coach Jason Hill.

Noah Merrill picked up the assist on the game's lone tally, as he beat an I-L defender and got into the penalty area. Merrill turned in towards the goal, and played a perfect square pass to Fairbank, who buried it into the open net for the early 1-0 advantage.

"We came out flat, and then the goal happened," said I-L coach Steve Welch. "We let our foot off the gas for a little bit and they continued to put pressure on and outshot us in the first half."

Both teams had chances the rest of the opening half, as Newfound's Ben Learned found Gavin Fogg on a cross, with Fogg's header going just over the net. The Bears appeared to double their lead in the 14th minute, as Merrill flicked a corner kick past I-L goalkeeper Devin Decormier. But Decormier recovered as the ball slowly trickled towards the line, and he was able to clear it out of danger before finding the net.

"I felt we played really well early on," said Hill. "And I felt if we could get a second goal, they would go away. We couldn't do that and it made for a grind the rest of the way."

The Lakers (3-13-1) had one of their best chances of the afternoon in the 19th minute, as Ben Ainsworth took a corner kick and found the head of Sam Otis. His flick landed in the six-yard box, though forward Alec Karageorges couldn't quite get all of it on a shot that was pounced on by Newfound keeper Zach Robison.

I-L continued the pressure in the second half, and the Lakers came within inches of tying the game in the 49th minute. Off a Lakers corner kick, a loose ball found the foot of sophomore Ryan Hambrook. Hambrook's blast into the corner appeared destined for goal, but Newfound defender Oscar Tsao, positioned well on the goal line, was able to get in the way and deflect the ball out of danger to preserve the 1-0 advantage.

"I thought we did well to get some chances in that second half, but it's a game of goals and we couldn't finish," said Welch. "I think Newfound did a good job of resisting each wave of attack that we brought. We kept coming at them and they were resilient. At the end of the day, they were the better team."

The Lakers final chance came with under 30 seconds left, as Robbie Wood dribbled through two defenders and found Karageorges, though his shot on net was smothered by Robison and Newfound pulled out the tough win.

"I'm happy we got the win, not exactly the way we expected it though," said Hill. "We just didn't see the same opportunities in the second half as the first so it made for a tough half to close it out."

The teams met twice in the regular season, with Newfound winning 1-0 in Bristol on Sept. 13 and 2-0 in Meredith on Oct. 12.

"Inter-Lakes is a tough team," said Hill. "We didn't really want to see them again in the playoffs. It's tough to beat a team three times in one season."

The win sends Newfound (7-7-3) through to the preliminary round of the D-III tournament, and the Bears will travel to fourth-seeded (13-2-1) Somersworth High School today. The teams played to a 2-2 tie in Bristol on Aug. 30 in their only meeting this season.

"We should be up for that game and we like where we are in the bracket," Hill said. "When we played them earlier in the year, we were up 2-0 and let the game slip away. They've got a great scorer in Zach Hill, so a key is going to be finding a way to stop him."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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