Panthers learn a few lessons in 3-1 loss to Central

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Nashua South's Riley Olsen, left, watches as the ball bounces away from Manchester Central's Samuel Assantha during Tuesday's 3-1 Little Green win at Stellos Stadium.

NASHUA – Nashua High School South boys soccer coach Tom Bellen is now starting to get a better idea of his team.

And that’s thanks to Tuesday’s 3-1 loss at the hands of Manchester Central at Stellos Stadium.

“It’s a good test for us, and they’re top dog right now,” Bellen said of the Little Green. “We were competitive with them, we’ve got a little ways to go before we catch them, but we’ve got a full season to do it, and I think we’re capable.”

The teams had great matchups at almost every position, but there was one thing the Little Green (3-0) has that right now the Panthers (2-1) don’t.

“We’ve been there,” said Central coach Chris LaBerge, his teams having lost in the last two Division I finals. “We have experience. They’re as talented as we are, they’re going to get there. … They just have to get their chemistry right and they’ll be right with us.”

The Panthers in a sense were with the exception of two Little Green goals in the final six minutes of the first half. With the score tied 1-1, Nashua sophomore goalie Leo Kopicko wandered out to cut down the angle on a Rajabu Hantangimana cross from the right side. The ball got past him and Angel Mora was wide open in front of the net for an easy tap-in in just over 33 minutes in for a 2-1 Central lead.

Four minutes later, South’s Lucca Soares got called for a trip on Hantangimana. That set up a Samuel Assantha penalty kick that beat Kopicko (seven stops) to his right for a 3-1 Little Green advantage going into the break.

“That hurt, that was a crusher going into the half,” Bellen said. “We got a little bit down because we gave up two goals in the last six (of the half).”

Central had taken a 1-0 lead on a Sam Latona goal in the 15th minute, but the Panthers drew even just a few minutes later when Emmanuel Orozco Alvarez converted a C.J Dawe cross at 19:54.

Later in the second half, the Panthers got their offense untracked a bit, making Central goalie Alex Walker (eight stops) work.

“We just didn’t get penetrating passes in,” Bellen said. “We were getting in behind guys all year, in the first two games, and we just weren’t looking for it until the last 15 minutes when we had some chances. We’ll keep doing that as the season goes along.”

And Bellen thinks he’ll see good things at the regular season finish line.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where this team ends up,” Bellen said. “I think we’re top four, not discouraged by this. We needed it. We needed a team to show us what you’ve got to be to be the state champ. They’re the team to beat right now.”

And the goal for Bellen is to get people to say that someday about the Panthers.