LYNN– Every opponent the English girls soccer team clashes against knows to expect a defensive battle from coach Ed McNeil and his Bulldogs. Opponents also know that English goalkeeper Tommi Hill’s always on her toes and ready to deny scoring opportunities whenever they come her way.
When Classical arrived at Manning Field for Tuesday night’s game against English, coach Mark Ierardi and the Rams knew what they were up against. But Classical overcame the tough Bulldogs defense to come away with a 2-0 win and season sweep against its rival.
“I expect a hard game against English every time,” Ierardi said. “You can throw the records out the window. The intensity’s there from the first minute until the game’s over. That’s always how it has been with English and Classical no matter what the sport is.”
The majority of the first half proved to be the type of game English is accustomed to playing. Classical fired plenty of shots in Hill’s direction, but the goalkeeper kept her net clean for 36 minutes.
In the 37th minute, Classical broke through to end the scoreless drought. Rachel Brennan found a loose ball and put just enough leg on it to get it past Hill for the 1-0 Rams lead, her first varsity goal. That’s how it stayed at halftime.
Facing a 1-0 deficit at recess, McNeil and the Bulldogs made an adjustment to their formation in hopes of creating more chances on offense.
“We moved one of our center midfielders further up,” McNeil said. “Then we played with three forwards at the end of the game. It’s sort of scrambly but the big thing is scoring. We have real trouble scoring. Alexa Zayas is our best scorer and Classical did a good job covering her.”
On the other hand, Ierardi was content that his group was able to come away with a big play right before the end of the half.
“It was a big play,” Ierardi said of Brennan’s goal. “We were possessing the ball very well and making great passes. Tommi Hill was terrific in net. If it wasn’t for her, we could’ve been up 3-0 or 4-0 at the half.”
Chasing the equalizer, English needed to ramp up its offensive attack in the second half to stay afloat. But in line with their biggest struggle of the season, the Bulldogs couldn’t generate many shots in the direction of Classical keeper Madison Dana, who earned the shutout win, her first as a member of the varsity squad, in net.
“We had three great scoring chances in the second half but we couldn’t put them in,” McNeil said. “We’ve lost 1-0 and 2-0 to Classical and that’s tough because that’s our rivalry game. If we want to win a game, it’s the game against Classical.”
Instead, it was Classical that scored another goal when Mackenzie Shea found the back of the net in the 68th minute. It was also her first varsity goal, and that was all the scoring the Rams needed to take the 2-0 win.
“That second goal gave us a little bit of breathing room,” Ierardi said. “It was huge. It was great to see Mackenzie score it because she was playing hard the whole game.
“It feels good to beat English but we need wins, no matter who the opponent is,” Ierardi added. “It’s a little more special to beat English but we need wins against anybody and everybody. Hopefully it continues because we need to go on a run to get into the state tournament.”
The Bulldogs (3-10-1) are back in action this evening when they host Pope John at Manning. English will celebrate its senior night at the game, honoring the 10 senior players on its roster.
Classical (5-7) will host Revere on Thursday in hopes of continuing its late-season push for a state tournament bid.