Defense stands tall for Londonderry boys soccer team

Sep. 24—DERRY — The lineup changes, but the results rarely have.

The Londonderry High School boys soccer team alternates between its two goalies and has a nine-player backline by committee, coach Todd Ellis said.

That approach defensively has produced six shutout victories and allowed just three goals over the Lancers' 7-1 start to the NHIAA Division I season. Their latest victory came last Friday, when they defeated rival Pinkerton Academy, 2-0, handing the Astros (8-1) their first loss.

"I think we've got good team speed," Ellis said after the Pinkerton game of his group's defensive strengths. "I think when we are helping our teammates to find pockets and help move the ball around quickly and don't rely on just us being individuals to beat teams, I think we do very well."

Junior Aidan Board and senior Matt Doyle are the Lancers' primary center backs. Connor Koza, a senior, is one of several players who has contributed at outside back.

Londonderry's defensive backs are very physical but clean and always have numbers back to prevent goals, Board said.

For all but the opening 15 minutes on Friday, Pinkerton had a noticeable possession advantage but struggled to connect passes and create scoring opportunities in the attacking third.

The Astros drew four corner kicks that Londonderry defended well each time. Senior goalkeeper Jason Reilly made three saves to earn the clean sheet.

Board said he, Doyle and Ellis talked before the game about having Doyle guard Pinkerton's striker and Board staying about 2-3 yards behind Doyle to help in coverage. "We just executed and we locked them down," Doyle said.

Reilly and junior Noah Celio have split starting duties in goal this fall. Reilly, in his third varsity season, brings experience and has a high demand for himself, Ellis said. Celio is tall, athletic and, hopefully, is learning from Reilly's example, Ellis said.

Doyle and Board each said both goalies help the backs by communicating what they see from their viewpoint and give their teammates confidence.

"We're very comfortable with either goalie," Board said. "We're glad to have them in net."

Ellis said he hopes the win over Pinkerton showed his players that, when they play good soccer and keep their composure, they can compete for a top-four finish in the division.

In arguably their other biggest bouts so far, the Lancers defeated Bedford (6-2) by a 2-0 score on Sept. 8 and fell, 2-1, at two-time defending Division I champion Nashua South (7-2) on Aug. 29. Their next game against a team with an over-.500 record is Oct. 6 at Hanover (7-1), the Division I runner-up to South each of the past two seasons.

"I think this goes a long way to show us that we're able to go win games on the road against a very tough opponent," Ellis said. "I think it shows us that, hey, we're at this level now and let's just see if we can be a little bit more consistent as we go (on)."

Boys soccer

Hopkinton 7, Hillsboro 1: Hopkinton improved to 8-1 with three goals from Cody Charron, two from Owen Wuellenweber and single tallies by Nolan Listad and Liam O'Brien. Patrick Buss (two), Fin Murphy (two) and Mike Pantano had assists. Colby Boissy made four saves for Hopkinton.

Alex Crow scored Hillsboro's lone goal, while Mason Savoy (six saves) and Braden Savoy (three saves) shared goaltending duties.

Keene 2, Merrimack 1 (OT): Adrian Talbot scored Merrimack's lone goal and Drew Flanders made six saves for the Tomahawks.