By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — In a rivalry made all the better by two undefeated teams headed for a collision, the Amesbury girls soccer team hosted Newburyport at Landry Stadium yesterday.
Someone had to pay the freight; and it was Newburyport as Amesbury played superbly to hand the Clippers their first loss of the season with a 3-0 shutout.
“We came in with a game plan, and I think we stuck to it,” said Indians coach Cathy Berry. “We had to play our game, play smart, go at the ball quick, move as a unit on the field, and attack. I think we did that.”
The game was flat out dominated by Amesbury (8-0-2). The first half saw the play going back and not quite forth between the two teams until about 25 minutes in when the Indians’ Erin Leary lofted a shot over Clippers goalkeeper Lilly Donovan’s raised arms to put Amesbury on the boards, 1-0.
Amesbury’s second goal would come eight minutes later when Hannah Zannini found herself one-on-one with Donovan, coming in on the junior’s right side, then slipping the ball just past Donovan’s left ribs to put the Indians up two going into the half.
The Clippers (8-1-1) came out strong with the sun at their backs to start the second half, getting two shots off right away. But Indians goalkeeper Sarah Abraham held strong, watching as her defense moved the ball up the field again. There it would stay. The Indians choked the Clippers offense, forcing them into their own territory again and again until the floodgates opened after 20 minutes. Forward Megan Cullen slipped the ball past Donovan’s right foot for the third and final goal of the day.
“The defense fed the ball to the midfielders,” Berry said of an almost perfect game plan execution. “The midfielders moved the ball and got it to our offense. We definitely had a lot of opportunities. We capitalized when we needed to. That (first) goal from the outside got us going, woke everybody up. We’re always up for Newburyport, but they were calm out there and (we) knew if (we) stuck to the game plan, (we) would be OK.”
Clippers coach Rob Gonnam made no excuses.
“We got out-played, it’s as simple as that,” assessed Gonnam. “We were out-played mentally, we were out-played physically. We talked before the game about (us) wanting to become champions. And either they would be more motivated to do that, or we would be more motivated to remain champions. We found the answer today. The only positive thing is, we’ll probably play them again in the state tournament.”
“It certainly was not our best game,” echoed Gonnam’s co-coach Kevin Sheridan. “(Amesbury) is a good team and they played well. We, plain and simple, lost and, in some part, beat ourselves. But, not to take away from them, they’re a good team. We struggled hitting targets. When you do that, you’re not going to score goals. So, we certainly have some things to work on. We’re halfway through the season, we need to step it up, and we know where the bar is.”
Berry praised her seniors on a surprisingly hot day.
“Every senior class from Amesbury wants to beat Newburyport on their home game, so they did and I’m happy for them,” said Berry.