LYNN — English girls soccer coach Ed McNeil knew going into Wednesday’s game against Saugus that his team would have its work cut out for it.
“They’re a very good team, the best team in our bracket,” McNeil said, referring to the revamped Northeastern Conference divisions. “They could go undefeated in our bracket. They are definitely the cream of the crop in our bracket. I thought our hardest three games would be St. Mary’s and the two Saugus games.”
The Sachems cruised through the first two games of the season, shutting out Somerville and Classical. Wednesday was more of the same, as Saugus rolled to a 5-0 win over the Bulldogs at Manning Field.
“We’ve been able to possess the ball well and control the game, hold onto the ball and make other teams chase,” Saugus coach Chris Coviello said. “That’s the thing we’ve been able to do best.”
The scoring started early and happened often for Saugus in the first half. Sophomore Kylie Ronan got the Sachems on the board right off the bat, and senior captain Rachel Nazzaro added another seven minutes into the half. At 25:12, Shaylin Groark knocked the ball out of a scrum in front of the net to make it 3-0.
The Bulldogs, who have struggled to generate offense this year and in seasons past, were plagued by the same problem against the Sachems. Senior Alexa Zayas, English’s main offensive weapon, got a shot off with three minutes left in the half, but it wasn’t much trouble for Saugus goalie Alana Aldred, who scooped up the ball.
With less than two minutes to play in the first, Nazzaro took a shot from about 25 yards out that sailed into the corner of the net past English keeper Tommi Hill’s dive to make it 4-0 Saugus going into the half.
If there was an obvious bright spot for English, it was the play of Hill, who was peppered with shots throughout but kept the Bulldogs in the game. With English’s backup keeper, Julianna Perry, sidelined with an injury, it was up to Hill to stick it out the entire 80 minutes, something McNeil said she did with a positive attitude and no complaints.
But even the play of Hill and a solid English defense in front of her weren’t enough to hold Saugus at bay. The Sachems scored once more, with Allison LeBlanc sending in a beautiful shot that banked off the bottom of the crossbar and in behind Hill.
Coviello highlighted forwards Haley McLaughlin and Groark, as well as Jess Carter at midfield.
For English, McNeil credited defenders Grace Gately and Tora Ueland, as well as Hill.
“They never leave the field,” McNeil said. “No matter what the score is, they work just as hard all the time.”
The Bulldogs are 1-3 to begin the season, but have gotten two of the hardest games out of the way early. Now, they can focus on competing with the rest of the teams in their division.
“I keep telling the girls, we’re going to be very competitive with the rest of the league. Now I’m looking forward to the rest of the schedule,” McNeil said. “We have Classical Friday, and we should be very competitive with them. Everett, Revere, Pope John, East Boston…they’re all teams we can play with.”
Both teams are back in action Friday. The Rams and Bulldogs play under the lights at Manning. while Saugus visits Revere at 4.