BERLIN — The Berlin boys’ soccer team is off to a fantastic start. The Mountaineers are 4-1 and currently sit fourth in the Division III standings. Coach Tony Valliere has the Mounties playing solid defense and creating plenty of scoring opportunities on the offensive end.
“This season provides us with a lot of returning players as we graduated only four and have seniors Tyler Rousseau, Austin Cornish, Tom Oechsle and Jared Hoitt looking to provide impact for us out on the field in various roles,” Valliere said. “We are also lucky to have our senior goalie Shaun Goyette in nets, who is hungry to make this senior year the best that he can for his team.”
He added: “The rest of the team will be made up of a very heavy junior group who has been playing a vital role since their freshman year along with a talented group of freshman and sophomores who have been around soccer and really have a strong soccer IQ.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it’s meant a later start to the season, an abbreviated schedule and a lot shorter bus rides. The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association is also making this a fall with an open tournament, meaning everyone gets into the tournament.
“With the format of the season being an open tournament it really provides a little bit of a different feel for games and an opportunity to get players some opportunities that may not always come out of a season where you are in a constant battle in the standings,” said Valliere. “We play some different opponents this year with our regional schedule and also see teams up to three times which always makes for some great games as we look to make adjustments based on previous games.”
Berlin opened the season on Sept. 21 with a 2-1 overtime victory on the road against Littleton.
Littleton scored at the 44-minute mark to take a 1-0 lead that held up until at 79:38 Berlin's Carter Poulin took the ball down the sideline, got it to Ben Estrella, who slid the ball perfectly to Tyler Rousseau who beat the goalie through the five-hole. Then at 90:26, in the second overtime, Estrella from the 18-yard mark, carried the ball across and took a low rising shot that just nipped the fingertips of the goalie and found the back of the net for a thrilling win.
The Mountaineer's goalie Berlin's goalie Shaun Goyette had nine saves, and BHS had six corners.
Coach Valliere said, "We knew this would be a battle, especially since Littleton already had a game under their belt while we had not had any competition, for some of the players almost a year, for others since March. It was a great win for us especially this early in the season and a chance to build some team chemistry. We tried a few different things and also got to spotlight some of the younger players."
The Mountaineers liked overtime so much, they went there again in their second match winning the local derby at home over Gorham 2-1 in the Gaydo Cup Homecoming game on Sept. 26.
Berlin's Brody Duquette opened up the scoring 15 minutes into the game. No more scoring took place until 15 minutes left in the game when Gorham's Cullen Anderson scored to tie things up and force overtime. The overtime session lasted 5 minutes when Tyler Rousseau broke through the defense, drew Liam Cairns out, and as he slid to attack Rousseau, he placed a beautiful ball across to Estrella for a wide-open, game-winning score. Cairns had 11 saves for Gorham while Hayden Poulin (no stats available at press time) played superbly in the nets for the Mountaineers.
Coach Valliere said, "This was a typical Gaydo Cup battle and I am proud of the team, especially the way they stay composed and focused going into the overtime. They took the previous game experience and applied it to this match. The result is what they worked for and deserved."
After a 2-0 loss at home to Bishop Brady (3-1) on Sept. 29, the Mounties met Gorham on the Common on Saturday and spoiled the Huskies’ Homecoming with a 3-1 win.
The teams were tied 1-1 at halftime. Huskies' Brendon Saladino scored at 6:10 on a beautiful chip shot that deflected off goalie Shaun Goyette's fingertips, and a Mountaineer goal 5:02 came off the foot of Ben Estrella on a rebound of a Kolin Melanson shot.
Berlin took control in the second half, with what proved to be the game-winning goal when Estrella got the ball to Tyler Rousseau at 44 minutes for a wide-open net and score. Tom Oeschle picked a great time to get his first varsity goal at 51 minutes, on another nice set-up by Estrella to Oeschle, who promptly deposited the ball with a low shot to the far post, just out of the reach of Cairns, to put the finishing touches on the win.
Goyette had four saves for Berlin and Cairns had 12 for Gorham.
Both coaches had some great comments on the hard-fought game.Valliere said, "This was a big game to rebound from after our loss to Bishop Brady. The boys were hungry for a win, showed good composure throughout and were able to create space and give themselves plenty of opportunities. Not only did Tom Oeschle score his first varsity goal but also won the sportsmanship award for his play in the win."
Gorham's Tina Binette commented that, "It was a battle throughout and after the first half we were tied at 1-1. The Huskie boys played well, dug deep but unfortunately injuries in the second half to three key players really disrupted our flow. I am proud of the team, they never gave up and gave Berlin a run for their money. Teagan Leclerc won the sportsmanship award and he deserved it as he was supportive, positive and played with dignity."
Berlin posted a solid 2-1 win on the road against Division II Kennett (1-3) on Monday, and will look to keep that momentum going in the final seven matches of the season.
The Mountaineers are scheduled to host Colebrook on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.; make the jaunt to Gorham on Saturday for an 11 a.m. match; host Canaan on Monday at 4 p.m.; travel to White Mountains on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.; host Kennett on Oct. 17 at 11 a.m.; host White Mountains on Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m.; and host Laconia on Oct. 23 at 3:30 p.m.