LYNN — Wednesday’s battle between the English and Salem girls soccer teams felt like the type of game that would be decided by one goal.
That’s exactly how it was decided, as the Witches scored halfway through the second half and staved off the Bulldogs to earn the 1-0 win.
Both coaches were pleased with the effort their teams gave.
“The girls did a great job, great 80 minute effort by our team, but with that being said, I thought English responded extremely well, too,” Salem coach Chris Scanlon said. “It could have very easily been 1-0, but our girls kept attacking and tried our best to work on combinations to get by aggressive players like English.”
“I’m very pleased. We’re in every game this year, win or lose,” English coach Ed McNeil said. “We could have easily come out of this with a tie. We already have more wins than we had last year (at 3-5), and I see more. And the effort is there.”
For English, it was the defense, led by Grace Gately, Tora Ueland, Brooke Zahine and goalkeeper Tommi Hill, that kept the Bulldogs in the game.
Within the first minute of the game, Alexa Zayas lofted a shot into the hands of Salem keeper Ella Galante-Barrett.
The Witches gave English a scare 13 minutes in as a shot banked off the goalpost and took a lucky bounce for the Bulldogs. Then it was English’s turn to threaten, as Galante-Barrett smothered a direct kick shot from Zayas.
Throughout the game, Salem dominated possession, but English, especially Zayas, created opportunities and tested Galante-Barrett. Perhaps the biggest test came in the first two minutes of the second half, as Zayas broke away from the Salem defense and forced Galante-Barrett to make a diving save. Fifteen minutes later, Zayas was at it again, but the Witches keeper was impenetrable.
“What hurt us today is they know Alexa is really good, and they were all over her,” McNeil said. “I thought their goalie made three terrific saves. That one rocket shot…no one hits the ball harder than Alexa. But it’s tough when you’re the only scoring threat.”
“I give them a lot of credit for their effort and energy,” Scanlon said of the Bulldogs. “Their center forward (Zayas) is a dangerous player, I’d love to have her on our team. Our defense did a wonderful job of breaking it up, even though she had a couple of good shots, our goalie has been outstanding for us.”
Finally, Salem broke through in the 59th minute. Kailey Amodeo beat a couple of Bulldogs down the sideline and sent a textbook cross pass through the center, where Madison White was waiting to knock it past a diving Hill.
“It was just perfect, I saw it coming,” McNeil said. “I think that was the only time we really got beat on the outside. Give them credit, they’re a great team and very, very physical, and I think it threw our girls off.”
The Bulldogs kept the ball up in Salem’s defensive end in the final minutes, but couldn’t get off a shot.
For Salem, the win was sweet, but turned sour as senior captain Angela Berry went down with a leg injury in the final minutes.
“We’re praying it’s not as bad as it may be,” Scanlon said.