Boys’ soccer: Three headlines from the 2023 season

The Bow Falcons celebrate their first ever Division II boys' soccer championship after beating Lebanon, 2-1, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023.

The Bow Falcons celebrate their first ever Division II boys' soccer championship after beating Lebanon, 2-1, at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. Chip Griffin

Merrimack Valley players Brady Turgeon (4) and Rutger Gillian both go up for a header during the second half against Plymouth on Tuesday, October 24, 2023.

Merrimack Valley players Brady Turgeon (4) and Rutger Gillian both go up for a header during the second half against Plymouth on Tuesday, October 24, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER

Hopkinton midfielder Cody Charron heads the ball through the outstretched hands of Campbell goalie Jack Bourque during the second half to tie the score at 3-3 at Laconia High School during the D-III semifinals.

Hopkinton midfielder Cody Charron heads the ball through the outstretched hands of Campbell goalie Jack Bourque during the second half to tie the score at 3-3 at Laconia High School during the D-III semifinals. GEOFF FORESTER

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 11-08-2023 9:06 AM

The 2023 season couldn’t have ended any better for Josh Smith in his first year as the head coach of Bow boys’ soccer. The Falcons finished the regular season 14-1-1 before taking down top-seeded Lebanon in the championship game for the school’s first title since moving up to Division II.

Other programs weren’t as lucky. Concord finished the year 5-11-0 and missed the playoffs, done in by a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season, while Merrimack Valley and Pembroke came up short in the first round of postseason play.

Here are three headlines from the 2023 boys’ soccer season:

Falcons gel in Coach Smith's first season

Bow didn’t take long to find its footing with a new head coach, starting the season with three straight shutout wins. After a 1-1 draw with Oyster River and a 1-0 loss to Lebanon, Bow then rattled off a 14-game winning streak en route to the D-II soccer championship, avenging the earlier loss to Lebanon.

Finishing the season 17-1-1, Smith’s coaching philosophy played a massive role.

“It’s sort of beyond my wildest dreams," he told the Monitor after the Falcons clinched the title. “We talked about that as a goal, and we knew this year we had a pretty good group that we could do it, but to put it all together so quickly has just been a testament to the work that the guys have put in. They’ve been awesome all year, and they’re the reason we’re here.”

In the championship game, senior Colby Smith scored the game-winning goal late in the first half. The senior class that included Smith, Brodie O’Neil, Wesley Michaelis, Eli Berrigan, Austin Beaulieu, Anthony Ray and Aaron Barrieau came into the season believing they could win a championship. Actually accomplishing their goal and finishing their careers on top left them searching for the words to describe the moment.

“It’s one of the best feelings we’ve ever had in our lives,” Colby Smith said. “We dreamed of this moment. It feels incredible. It’s even better than how I could imagine it.”

Hopkinton’s phenomenal season ends in heartbreak

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

In the face of tragedy, Franklin softball seeks togetherness
Franklin High-community college partnership prompted by extreme teacher shortage garners attention from Senator Shaheen
Missing Dartmouth student’s body found in Connecticut River
Police plan ‘high visibility’ traffic enforcement on Route 4
Middle schooler charged with assault after school bus skirmish
Opinion: The devastating impact vouchers have had on Arizona, Florida local public schools

Scott Zipke’s program didn’t live up to his standards last season when the team finished 5-10-2 and lost to Campbell in the first round of the playoffs. In 2023, the Hawks turned things around, starting the season 12-1 and subsequently reaching the Division III semifinals.

In a wild back-and-forth affair against No. 1 Campbell, the Hawks fell, 4-3, in penalty kicks, bringing their season of great promise to an agonizing end.

Although the players were clearly dismayed after the loss, Zipke offered some perspective.

“Once you get to PKs, you never know what’s going to happen,” he said on Oct. 30. “One team moves on, but big deal. Big deal once it gets to PKs. Message is: It’s cool that these guys are as upset as they are because that means they played a hell of a game tonight, and they played a hell of a year. They wanted to play in the championship, and they thought that they were going to, and they thought they should be. It’s cool how well they played tonight and how much it hurts because that means you played awesome.”

Hopkinton graduates 10 seniors from the team, including goalkeeper Colby Boissy who turned in a sterling performance in the semifinal loss.

“Colby’s incredible,” Zipke said. “He got clobbered there at one point, had a hurt shoulder and is still out there doing his thing. Best game of his life in the biggest moment. It was awesome.”

Inconsistency stifles Merrimack Valley’s promise

The Pride’s 2023 season sparked ample reasons to think the team could make a deep playoff run. MV was the only team to beat Lebanon during the regular season and played tight contests with Bow (3-1 and 4-3 losses).

But when the six-seeded Pride faced off with No. 11 Plymouth in the first round of the playoffs, the Bobcats outplayed MV in virtually every aspect, pulling off the upset with a 3-0 win. The loss for the Pride became a symptom of underlying challenges that head coach Ken Fuller said his group dealt with throughout the year.

“We’ve struggled all season with teams that come out and just have the passion,” he told the Monitor after the loss. “That’s something we lacked a majority of the season was having a full 11 that had that drive and that passion to come out and play hard and want to win.”

After finishing the year 9-7-1, MV graduates seven seniors: Owen Piper, Brady Turgeon, Andrew Surprenant, Trevor Simonds, Alex McPherson, Will McPherson and Aaron Wescom.